slow as eels: rfm on various herhalen artists, mudguts, günter schlienz, hawlimann & stricktschek, nautapes #32

December 14, 2017 at 5:09 pm | Posted in new music, no audience underground | Leave a comment
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Various Artists – Under The Concrete / The Field (Herhalen)

Mudguts – Granada Valley Flower Girl (Cruel Nature Records)

Günter Schlienz – Selbstportrait (Spam Tapes)

Hawlimann & Stricktschek – TEENSDREAMS (Spam Tapes)

Various Artists – NAUT #32 – Live at Northern Charter (NAU-Tapes)

 herhalen

Various Artists – Under The Concrete / The Field (Herhalen) Cassette and free digital album

A curious compilation that sits halfway between an all-star remix album and an old-fashioned call and response holla.

The backstory goes like this.  Mark (Concrete/Field) sends a bunch of unfinished, unused but much loved sounds out into the universe and waits for like-minded beards to respond with a reaction.  So what we get is a blur of interpretations and a shimmy of styles from a heady mix of collaborators.

The mood is cautiously optimistic with each collaborator (many new names to me) mining a seam of whistling iron; each piece separate in rusted glory but tied together with strong metallic links.

Cauterized bounce silver balloons with bright electric sparks.  It takes Descent to riff on the itchy scratch favoured by high priests Zoviet:France.  Air bubbles are released into the blood by Elricj with a turkey wishbone used as a funky clave.

What’s this?  A shimmering John Carpenter-style synth all trussed up in black leather? Ladies and gentlemen – introducing Amantra.

We go back in time with Wound’s piece sounding like it was composed on a Casio calculator watch (circa 1987) – a river of bleep.  Then race to the here-and-now for Matt Warren’s Styrofoam rummage and one finger keyboard bee-drone.

RFM fave Kek-W on the brilliantly titled ‘A Fax from Phillip Glass’ creates exactly that.  Four organs battle the inhuman squeal of redundant technology.  Libbe Matz Gang bring the gritty howl they are well known for in these parts.  But watch out! Scutopus’ almost 6 min drone is crispy pancake – not filled with boiling cheese and ham but gently sculpted and rough to touch. Wizards Tell Lies, another scorched earth outfit, juggle tangled loops and fine, filigree crackle.

The gloriously named artist Nude for Satan seem to be riffling through the Necronomicon while listening to copper pipes being clanged (on leaky headphones).

Classy Draaier ends the recording on a tasteful note.  A foamy sea drawing itself through smooth pebbles as the heavens dance overhead.

A perfect balm for this most abrasive of seasons.

mudguts flower girl

Mudguts – Granada Valley Flower Girl (Cruel Nature Records) Cassette and digital album

Ghostly power-duo Mudguts (Lee Culver on sounds and Scott McKeating on composition) haunt and howl their way through another impressive tape drenched in sticky black ectoplasm.

The opening two pieces ‘Original Mistake Growing Arms and Legs’ and ‘Constantly Slaughtering Something’ seem to exist beneath a level of human perception. Sure, churning voices are suggested and even become corporeal for moments but mostly these are echoes, lost murmurings and hints striving to pierce the veil of human static.

The altogether more boisterous ‘Bat’ is a multi-limbed car wash applying numerous squeegee squeals to your scalp.  The twelve minute ‘Every Single Edge’ truly made me jump with its needle-sharp intro cry.  Imagine a single string soprano violin bowed with fury cutting through an orchestra of damp tissue paper and comb artists.  Picture the clarity of intention over the glum voices of damage!

The balance is restored with the beautiful hum of ‘Carver’ a soul-scratching guitar noodle heard through heavy atmospheric interference.  And the prettiest of the lot ‘Moth’ a one minute mumble, makes me think this really could be the only surviving recording of a wet marimba covered in fragrant peat.

Mudguts once again daub the strange and the beautiful with primitive woad.

gunter

Günter Schlienz – Selbstportrait (Spam Tapes) Cassette

Totally beautiful synth wig-ins.

Marvellously introspective and slow as eels this tape massages my tired temples and places a warm oiled hand on my knotted shoulders.

Schlienz’ Self Portrait floats in the air faintly glowing all across side one.  The spare notes breathe into each other – a cinnamon-scented wind.

But this is in no way a dumb drift piece.  No Sir!  This is as deliberately approached as your end of year accounts.  The movements are smooth and calm.  A gentle shudder, a close cluster of harmonic moans as discrete as Eno’s Discreet Music.

Side two, ‘Campfire Suite’ takes the whole soft sheebeen outside and clusters around a real life crackling fire (just audible in the mix).  This time things are less obviously soothing and more mysterious – picture an electric loon-bird or stoned sperm whale.

Perfect and peaceful – more most welcome Spam!

hawliman

Hawlimann & Stricktschek – TEENSDREAMS (Spam Tapes) Cassette

Phew!  This hectic duo couldn’t be further removed from Gunter’s plantagenet hoofs.

Side one opens with the mud-popping farts of a bass pipe getting lustily fingered. The wet slurp is part aboriginal dreamtime part steam-driven traction engine busting hot rivets.  Percussion comes in the form of crinked coffee cans, a fistful of dry reeds and shuffling grit under the soles of a clog.  It is truly magical to hear a crisp packet scrunched, up and close to the mic, as loud as Slayer in any given Enormo-dome.

Side two is an almost prehistoric take on Don Cherry’s masterpiece ‘Mu’.  These boyos drag around sacks of cloth, sigh politely and snore, setting the scene before breaking out an ivory horn and badass drum.

We are treated to a walking mix; various beaters and rattles picked up, explored and discarded.  It’s a pleasure, a delight, to hear the invention and thought weaving as voice melts into melodica or balloon squeak tackles a wooden bamboo flute.

Clear the picnic blanket – these scotch eggs are ripe and ready to pluck.

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Various Artists – NAUT #32 – Live at Northern Charter (NAU-Tapes) Cassette

Gosh knows how many more NAU-Tapes Dave Howcroft has released in the last month but here’s the latest that found its way into my bulging stocking.

Admission corner – I’m breaking form here at RFM by reviewing a tape that I feature on but I don’t see why the other acts here should suffer because of my writing mumps.

And what a set of acts! Posset-Ruus Duo, Dawn Bothwell, Kleevex and Yoni Silver & Ram Gabay all braved five flights of stairs to take up residence in the sun-drenched plaza that is Newcastle’s Northern Charter Space.  Normally reserved for visual artists this wonderful space looks out over the main drag of Newcastle City Centre – a veritable eagle’s nest!

First up new duo – Posset-Ruus (soon to be re-branded The Russets but that’s a different story) take two acoustic guitars, two mouths, two Dictaphones and four speakers in a self-perpetuating loop squeezing scrambled string-action and slack tooth honks via their Dictas in what I believe they call a hot mess.  Described by some as ‘not really music’ imagined by others as Harry Pussy swapping their instruments at half time – WOOF!

Dawn Bothwell’s electronic poetry takes advantage of the view and describes the pre-Christmas rush; all mead quaff and sausage munch.  A looping module takes snatches of voice and spins a ring of bright fire making it sizzle.  Just when you thought you’d heard it all pitches are switched and a booming bottom-end heralds precise and hammering tech-noir squelch.

Keleevx pair up two of the hardest working folk in the Undergronk, Faye MacCalman and Gwilly Edmondez rasping on sax/clarinet and mouth/dicta respectively. Like a couple of daytime drinkers they read each other’s minds ready to place a new conversational nugget or curious honk on the table with practiced certainty. Seeing traditional instruments cozying up to what is basically outdated office equipment fills me with a wonderful sense of hope and I can wax lyrical if you want. But it’s all just breath at the end of the day innit?   The secret is its vital oxygen, life-giving air whistling from Kleevex into my hungry ears.  Dandy.

The brave headliners are polished metropolitan gentlemen Yoni Silver (Bass Clarinet & Violin) and Ram Gabay (half a Drum-set).  I’m not going to beat around the bush here – this is world class improv.  Yoni and Ram are inventive masters pushing each of their respective instruments though ten rounds delivering stylistic K.O’s with grace and regularity.  Yoni’s deep, deep honk is filtered through an enviable technique, rude tongue-slaps on the gummy reed, a foot in the brass bell and plastic filters clattering with the power of sculpted air.

Ram’s drums (a couple of snares, a rogue bass drum and a collection of cymbals and gee-gaws) are cosseted and stroked like old house cats. Skins are thrummed and thowked.  The mixture of texture and timing fill the air with gritty vibrations that are expertly controlled with the occasional sharp ‘crack’ brining us out of our misty reverie and back into the present.  Special mention must be made of the bass drum – a slack and sliding mobile unit skittering at the sight of Ram’s well-heeled boot.

And the interplay between the two is gob-dropping, jaw-smacking.  Nuance unwraps further nuance, in a cluttered Venn diagram alive with microscopic bristle.  This damn tape reminds me why I love improv so much – it just keeps on flowing and reforming until (one brief violin scrape later) it snips to a perfectly neat and tidy close.

As with all other NAU-tapes these are available only from the mighty Mr Dave Howcroft at howcroft.d58@gmail.com for FREE!  *but bung him a few quid eh…it’s Christmas.

 

Herhalen

Cruel Nature Records

Spam Tapes

-ooOOoo-

changes at radio free midwich soundtracked with the full-throated huxx from: sdf, knives, phil maguire and charlie ulyatt

December 3, 2017 at 5:52 pm | Posted in musings, new music, no audience underground | Leave a comment
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My dearest RFM stalwarts and most noble readers.  It’s with a heavy heart I announce that in January 2018 I will have to step away from the editor’s chair, close the laptop lid and hang up my headphones.

There’s nothing dramatic going on. It’s just that real life has rather rudely interrupted me over the last few months and will continue to do so for the majority of next year.  Put plainly I don’t have the time to listen as I would like, write as I feel and edit as I must.  Hours in the day innit?

As I’ve mentioned before nothing happens in the People’s Republic of Midwich without debate so me, Rob, Chrissie, Sky High Diamonds, Luke, Marlo, Sophie and Paul all juggled the options and agree we don’t want to let our collective half million words splutter out completely.  But, at the same time, none of us can commit to the weekly task of publishing Radio Free Midwich.

So…we plan to adopt the Idwal Fisher model.  RFM will continue, but as an occasional treat.  We all will write as and when the muse strikes and publish when possible.

But this must mean changes have to be made.  The most drastic will be, from this day forward, we can’t accept any more submissions.

Globally the No Audience Underground has been generous to a fault.  When I stood in for Rob at the start of 2017 he told me to expect a new and exciting relationship with my postman.  He wasn’t kidding!  Trev (we are on first name terms now) rings the doorbell almost daily with another heavily taped-up package in recycled jiffy bags.

“More tapes?” he says, “looks like they’ve come from Italy.”

“Aye…that’ll be the new batch from Tutore Burlato” says I.

It’s been a real honour to listen and a delight to try and capture the essence of this beautiful, inventive, clever, essential and often indescribable music into chunky, informative and entertaining posts for you but I’m afraid that from today the submissions box is now officially closed.

That’s it.  Please don’t send any more tapes, CD-Rs or downloads.

I’ll put a note on the ‘submissions’ page to back this up but I know most of you who kindly send us stuff to review are genuine readers so – you read it here first.

Right now the plan is to write up the last few items in our personal listening piles so expect a few more posts.  In early January we go list-crazy with the hotly-contested Zellaby awards and then we revert to an occasional journal. 

For me personally…I’m really going to miss the thrill of slotting a tape in the player that knocks me sideways.  I’m going to have to get used to the ache that not writing leaves. But most of all I’m going to miss telling new friends and old that RFM have written up your new release and it’s an absolute fucking belter.

At least I know Trev will breathe a sigh of relief.

But until then, let’s crack on with these beautiful organs…

SDF – Alana (Psykick Dancehall)

Knives – The Way People Are (Red Guard)

Phil Maguire – brak (Soft Error)

Charlie Ulyatt – Shifting (Self-Release)

SDF

SDF – Alana (Psykick Dancehall) Cassette and digital album

My goodness! Pure avant-pop from this collective of ruddy beet-makers.

My headphones don’t often get the chance to delve into such bass-heavy electronic frequencies.  And this is all ‘boom-tish’ and square-waved bass poke. Cor!

Recorded in a bamboo-themed nightclub in a Liverpool basement (circa 1987) these are real songs with real backing vocals and weighty lyrics.  ‘Stroke for Stroke’ seems to be about coke or wanking or perhaps coke and wanking.

The digital coughs that introduce ‘My Friend David Don’t Need Rubber’ and dry narration suggest a Storm Bugs vibe but this is as sleazy as casually shrugged off linen trousers.

The erratic tom-tom programming dominates ‘The Fight’, so the swaddled synth wash becomes a sulphurous base note.  It’s heavy without being metallic.  Yet compare this with the gum-popping airiness of ‘4 Men’ as sparkly as Kraftwerk’s ‘Neon Lights’.  Two very different visions of the teenage disaster!

It’s not all senseless ecstatic joy though.  Closer ‘All Night Disco’ seems to ram Paul Young’s fretless bass sound into a pre-rave serotonin dump.  The heavily reverb-ed snare sounds echo round the abandoned dancehall.  The last few revellers slumped into human pyramids realise that cold daylight is breaking outside and the dream of temporary release is well and truly over.

The trick SDF pull of is to deal in a rare surface deepness – a delicate trick of the light when the glitterball’s beam hits the chipped Formica.

20171203_174658

Knives – The Way People Are (Red Guard) CD-r and itunes

Fully enveloping darkness from Blyth-born, London-based Knives.

Opener ‘The Idea of Homes’ simple guitar figure repeats, repeats, repeats like a Papa M theme; building tension, creating worlds of simple herringbone.

The occasional field recording (a drip, instinct rattle, spoken words) and keyboard sizzle augment ‘A Fire That Never Goes Out’ that ever-so-gently nudges forward slowly, taking time to revel in each rich, deliberate note.  A beautiful musing that begins to answer itself on what might be a mouth organ.  Rural Post Rocking Chair Music.

The spook gets let loose on ‘Out of Touch’.  As dramatic as opening credits on some 70’s Cold War TV special.  The threat of reds-under-the-bed suggested with sly nods and Pinter-esque pauses.

The lengthy ‘Involving Others’ (an excellent song title – sounds like something from a school report card yeah) involves a powerful throb and a kind of long-spring-in-a-pipe rubberiness last heard on King Tubby’s most ingenious recordings.  The throb builds slowly over twelve minutes growing more and more grubby.  Proving you can take the boy outta Blyth but…

Closer ‘Favourite Friend’ works on the sort of chord progression Britpoppers would carve up their forearms for.  Ever descending notes circle above some late-night radio drek from Night Owls or something warping suddenly into a Star Wars conspiracy/warp drive malfunction.

phil maguire

Phil Maguire – brak (Soft Error) Cassette and digital album

Two intensive five-minute micro studies that contain a galaxy of carbon-rich details.

Side one is the stale breeze that wafts from a recently vacated taxi, the change in air pressure you feel before an electrical storm.  Phil carefully knits these concepts together into a deliberate smear.   Like the careful scrape of a palette knife sounds are revealed, presented and then smoothed over in decisive strokes.  Hum becomes thrum.

Side two plugs my ears with clear wax.  A curved sound (the inside of a porcelain basin perhaps) plays with reverse-thought and distant, high-level atmospheric hisses.

The sudden edits act like the reaction-shot in a slasher pic.  The victim’s eyes are wide and mouth flaps in a wordless scream.  The micro-second before the meathook is revealed an absence opens up in the grainy VHS.  Magnify this one thousand times to watch the red, blue and green pixels dance in random ecstasy.

One for inner-spacers and adventurous tape-heeds.

charlie ulyatt

Charlie Ulyatt – Shifting (Self-Release)  CD, Cassette and digital album

Marvellous solo guitar experi-werks from Nottingham’s Charlie Ulyatt.

The six-stringed workhorse is nothing if not versatile.  From stun-heavy power chords to gentle nylon fingering the guitar speaks loud and long in popular musical debates.

But folk who can take those half-dozen taut strings and do something useful seem to be getting few and far between.

Shifting takes care the boxy resonance of the wooden guitar body is explored as deeply as the shiny metal strings, caustic amplification and decaying effect pedals have making this a full-spectrum experience.

Charlie marries the flinty pluck of a Derek Bailey with the full-throated huxx of a Bridget Hayden in ‘Erasing Angels’ storing energy in dark coils for the bulk of the track to release them in a boiling blur.

‘Ah Moses’ is as fresh as the scrunch of newly fallen snow, pure and blank but with an eye-squinting brightness.   This winter theme is continued in ‘Honeycomb’ a brittle icicle drip and suspicious yellow puddles.

The bowed pieces, ‘Mannering’ being one vital example builds in tremulous clouds.  Think a quivering sample of acrid fog being sucked backwards into a test tube and firmly bunged.

Majestic closer ‘Daisy Chain Burns’ straddles the burnt-out corpse of Dead C with the busy, rolling fx-damage of fellow New Zealander Peter Wright.  Bubbling like a porridge pot; small geysers erupt with yeasty burps while the milk rushes up the side of the pan smelling like new babies.

Psykick Dancehall

Knives / Red Guard

Soft Error

Charlie Ulyatt Bandcamp

-ooOOoo-

you thought festival season was over. you wrong! sheffield’s singing knives present a host of hot lickin’ cockles.

November 27, 2017 at 8:06 pm | Posted in live music, new music, no audience underground | Leave a comment
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F.Ampism

Dylan Nyoukis & Kieron Pirecy

Sippy Cup

Giblet Gusset

Historically Fucked

Katz Mulk

Posset

Acrid Lactations & Jointhee

Luke Poot & Duncan Harrison

Beards and gals at a loose end on Saturday 2nd December are invited to hop the train, hitch a lift or bundle into a rusty van to attend Singing Knives clumper clam-bake of monumental proportions.

A batch of RFM favourites huddle together in a haughty scout hut to honk and bray their way through a mist of all day-drinking and goon-hatching.

Where?   Regather, Sheffield, 57-59 Club Garden Road, S11 8BR

When?  Saturday 2nd December

Like…I mean what time?  Doors open at 3:30pm, and the laffs start at 4pm

How much?  £5  Not even a quid a band.

fampism live

 F.Ampism

“A jungle lushness drips through the recent work of Mr F Ampism. Thick and green, waxy and water-resistant each micro-collage is rich beyond our feeble senses; ethnic percussive loops wobbly like belly fat, environmental recordings gurgle as algae-thick rivers, electronic squirts gush tessellated digital foof. It’s a sound you can smell and that smell is pregnant and full.”  RFM

LP just out on the ace Ikuisuus label of Finland, but of course you know that already.

nyoukis & piercey
Dylan Nyoukis & Kieron Piercy

“Dylan Nyoukis’ work exists on the fringe of contemporary avant garde art and underground DIY insurrection. As a leading light in the UK’s tape/CD-R scene, Nyoukis has long functioned as a rallying point for artists working to clear a space for original, non-idiomatic sound and feral performance modes.” Ubuweb

Kieron is in Spoils & Relics yeah and probably carries a blade.  What more do you want eh?

sippy cup 2

Sippy Cup

A two person group; both ying to each other’s yang.  Flim to their flam.  Watch ‘em empty a box of clogs on a table and make the damn things dance.  Total introversion, rattle, squark and dog toys.  Leading lights, oof-architects Kate Armitage & THF Drenching may be involved.

Giblet Gusset

A new name on me but a quick youtube search fessed up a poorly lit scene of folk in masks moaning and rolling cigs.  Sudden peaks of pure chuddering power swept through the scene (by now faintly blue) to punctuate the mossy fiffle and ripe broad cheer.

historically fucked
Historically Fucked

“A four way entanglement. It is trying to make short songs at-once but also to destroy them then too. It is about playing and laughing at playing, and it is about not doing either of those things sometimes. Sometimes it is to do with talking, howling or grunting, and sometimes it is to do with hitting and rubbing. It has to do with some of the four people who do it, who each share the same duties, and whose names in sequence are Otto Willberg, David Birchall, Greta Buitkuté and Alecs Pierce and who would like to be remembered by them, so that when they have finished doing this thing, their names carry on doing other things.” Anon

katz mulk 3

Katz Mulk

“A three piece experimental group based in Manchester made up of Ben Morris, Ben Knight & Andrea Kearney. Ben Knight is a singer, researcher and social worker. He also plays in Human Heads and publishes the Dancehall journal with Hannah Ellul. Ben Morris is a Musician and artist. He records solo as Lost Wax and is in the long running duo Chora. Andrea Kearney is a dancer and graphic designer.”  Singing Knives

posset 3
Posset

“From identifiable vox chop-up to finely-ground tape slurry, with the occasional non-larynx instrument wheeze to brighten the corners.” We Need No Swords

acrid lactations 2
Acrid Lactations & Jointhee

“Joincey is the peripatetic originator of a multitude of solo projects and the member of more bands that if printed here, would make this paragraph seriously unmanageable […] Acrid Lactations are Stuart Arnot and Susan Fitzpatrick […] who one day had Joincey turn up whereupon they made some tea and recorded some songs. Twelve of them. Each one having a different resonance each of them giving me that esemplastic laminal improv feel. Whilst listening I wrote: the Stokie Shaman, gut ache improv, Sun Ra skronk, stories told by someone pretending to be a witch, silence, taut Hitchcock-ian soundtracks, spoken word question and answer sessions…” Uncle Idwal Fisher

poot and harrison
Luke Poot & Duncan Harrison

Sheffield-based Strepsils abuser. Collaborations with the likes of Adam Bohman, Part Wild Horses Mane on Both Sides, Blue Yodel, Ben Knight, Acrid Lactations, Chastity Potatoe, and Phil Minton’s gang of toughs. ‘I just listened to a bit that sounded like a pig pushing weights with a scotch egg in its gob.’ – Stuart Arnot

“Duncan Harrison hails from Brighton and his multi-pronged activities make him a man of diverse artistic peers, including TUSK favourites Ali Robertson, Pascal Nichols and many more. Duncan throws himself at sound poetry, tape use and abuse, electroacoustic improv and often more conceptual approaches. The trajectory of his sets is impossible to predict and can provoke as much aesthetic distaste and downright annoyance as they can pleasure, perhaps depending on how wide your mind is.” Tusk Festival

 

F.Ampism

Dylan Nyoukis / Kieron Piercy

Historically Fucked

Katz Mulk

Giblet Gusset

Posset

Sippy Cup

Luke Poot / Duncan Harrison

Acrid Lactations & Jointhee

-ooOOoo-

woke up with a frog on my tongue: rfm on aftawerks, sophie cooper, yol, ocean floor, anla courtis, robert ridley-shackleton, the slowest lift & f.ampism

November 23, 2017 at 7:15 am | Posted in new music, no audience underground | Leave a comment
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Aftawerks – Isle of Dogs (Acid Waxa)

Sophie Cooper – The Curfew Tower Recordings (Crow Versus Crow Editions)

Yol –On/Off (Soundholes)

Ocean Floor – Four Shadows (Aphelion)

Anla Courtis – Concept Bongo (Coherent States)

Robert Ridley-Shackleton – A Thin Slice of Sexie Funk (Cardboard Club)

The Slowest Lift – The Slowest Lift (VHF)

F.Ampism – The Unstruck Sound Centre (Ikuisuus)

 acid waxa

Aftawerks – Isle of Dogs (Acid Waxa) Sold Out Cassette and digital album

Now I may not know my 808 from my 303 but what I can tell you is that this tape is what I’ve been reaching for when I need to get shit done.

Putting the bins out?  Check.

Going to argue with the teachers at the kids open day? Check.

Completing that application for planning permission?  Check.

For each domestic stretching task I’ve found Aftawerks’ no-nonsense squelch, jaunty computerised bass and pinprick precise beats the perfect mental and physical workout.

I’m in no way qualified to review this with any sense of where it fits into things historically.  Some of it sounds like incidental music on Miami Vice, some of it sounds like the tunes kids blast at the back of the bus with extremely complicated hi-hat and clave patterns.

But whatever it is I’m bouncing and moving.

So…am I cool now?

sophie cooper solo

Sophie Cooper – The Curfew Tower Recordings (Crow Versus Crow Editions) Sold Out Cassette and digital album

How low can you go?

On this tape Sophie Cooper goes Mariana Trench deep into the wild and weird world of the orchestra’s most misunderstood instrument – the trombone.

Sophie’s ‘bone is not played for yuks.  No sir.  Her Avant Garde drone credentials are writ large on a ‘Tribute to LaMonte Young and Marian Zazeela’s OCEANS’.  But at the same time the farting bluster that comes naturally from hot brass is not shied away from.  In fact it is welcomed in a series of breathy improvisations that notch up extra points for unknown textures and intense control.

At times the brass guffs are joined with real-life human breath totally getting that ‘soft and intense’ vibe Miles perfected on Kind of Blue.  On ‘What the fuck was he thinking?’ trumps turn to growls and growls turn to gasps and I’m transported into a world of leather lungs and wax paper aioli, gently expanding and contracting – the rasping hiss as rich in life in a succulent rock pool.

Delicate sound manipulation enters the frame occasionally with ‘Push the Button’s’ double-tracked horns locking together into some hefty warble tone.  A pot is twisted and it gets fuzzier and hissier until it reaches Michio Kurihara’s mythical bliss-out proportions.

As it stands, with its site specific jams and improvisations, this tape would be a winner.  But add to this the sweet narrative charm and you’ve got a keeper, a real put-on-the-top-of-the-pile-er.

The fabled dial-a-bone sessions link recordings together and are presented unedited and raw…the phone rings, Sophie answers, she asks what kind of jam the caller wants (loud/soft, short/long) and, BBBBUUURRRRRRRRRRMMMMM, she delivers.  Classic trombone action.

Who you gonna call?

yol on off

Yol –On/Off (Soundholes) Cassette

SIDE ON: JUST FIRE. JUST FIRE NOTHING ELSE. FEEDBACK SCOURS CLEAN. YOU DID A CRAP WHEELIE IN THE PARK. GIBBER G-G-GIBBER. ROAR AND RUUR AND RAAR. THROAT IS SORE BUT CAN’T STOP. JUST FIRE NOTHING ELSE.  SSSSSSSSQUEAL – BURN IT CLEAN / CUT IT OUT.  FIRE, FIRE, FIRE ON A LORRY. SCRATCH/BUFFFFFFGGG. SILENCE. TWO DOGS. BACKGROUND CHUNTER ON A TAPE OR SOMETHING. TWO FAKE PLASTIC ROTTWEILERS.  BUMMMMGGGGG—AWWWWWWWWW WHAT THE FUCK IS IN THERE?  EEEEEEEEEEE…SILENCE-CLICK.

SIDE OFF. PROTEST WIG. UGHHH. SCRAPE/SCRAPE. UHHH-GHUUUR. DISEMBODIED WIG HEAD ON THE BALCONY OF THE LUXURY FLATS. SCRATCH. CREEEE—WAAAJ WAAAJ. I SWEAR DOWN IT WAS LOOKING AT ME. HAH-HAH-HER. FADED GHOST LETTERS. GUNG-KIDDLE-TOING. SAY SOMETHING ABOUT. BOING. PAINT, SHOES, GLOVES. PING…CRUNCH. IS IT A WARNING? CHUDDLE-RATTLE-HING. CRAZY PAVING. SCRATCH-UG UG UG MADE FROM BROKEN GRAVESTONES ROARRR-R-RAAAH.  SQUEAL-EEL. ALWAYS KEEP A SPARK PLUG IN YOUR POCKET.  UHG UHG CRASH. SILENCE-CLICK.

ocean floor

Ocean Floor – Four Shadows (Aphelion) CD, Cassette and digital album

These four sublimely beautiful modular synth pieces from one Mr Aonghus Reidy simply ooze out of the speakers like a ripple of ripe camembert.

Opener ‘Airglow’ reverberates round our domestic front room with a poise that turns our little lounge into some ebony-tiled basilica.  A devastating presence wearing the monk’s cowl of humility.  ‘Shadows’ follows with gentle runs of oscillation that wouldn’t be out of place in a schools and colleges broadcast from 1983.

Things wind down a little with ‘Night’ – shimmering like moonlight on a vast lake the melody moving so slowly it almost collapses.  And things are finally put to bed (Ed – groan!) on ‘Slumber’ a real-life lullaby; in equal parts sweetness and sinister.

It’s pretty.  It’s lovely.  What’s your problem punk?

anla courtis

Anla Courtis – Concept Bongo (Coherent States) Cassette and download

Clipped and ribbed thribblings.

Yes it’s the bongo drum – beloved of the beatnik and unwelcome midnight-jammer.  But here Alan/Anla Courtis takes the hippie staple and drowns it in several pints of ‘chunng-fhhfhhung’ stretching each dull thud into a warm tropical front.  Elastic thumps collect in wildly unstable clouds; popping and clicking like plastic thunder.

Waxy rolls and smears. 

Two fifteen minute pieces focus on different approaches.  ‘Concept Bongo I’ concentrates on the short-lived resonance that exists in the negative space these drums are designed to hold.  Vibration is carefully controlled and limited to strict, neat parameters.  The tables are turned on ‘Concept Bongo II” a freer, looser jam, sloshed with reverb sounding exactly halfway between an afternoon with Steve Reich and Faust’s most blunted tapes experiments.

The sound of a million blunt fingertips gently striking pigskin. 

The palette of sounds is, understandably, quite limited to these thrilling pops and clicks but this familiarity make me smile nostalgically, like uncovering a well-earned scar when it’s warm enough to wear shorts.

Can I say Bongo Fury?  Guess I just did.

Robert Ridley

Robert Ridley-Shackleton – A Thin Slice of Sexie Funk (Cardboard Club) 3”CD-r

The Cardboard Prince is pretty much unstoppable on this brief funk workout.  I’m guessing there’s some new kit involved here as RRS sounds deep, heavier and more, well…sexie on this release.

Enough of the preamble – where’s the beef?

  • ‘Eye Just Want 2’ – Chart-ready Brit-funk with indistinct vocals (such a shame I can’t make them out) and an irrepressible squid-beat spurting electric ink.
  • ‘Dancing Under the Table’ – A classic RRS instant composition with a riff on jam sandwiches and death(e), the coiling bass line gradually tweaked till it cries Uncle.
  • ‘Cheater’ –This one is the cream of a particular creamy crop. Lyrics sound like Cheap Trick!  Lyrics sound totally RRS!!  The squelching bass line needs to be wrung out it’s so darn wet.  Many pots are twisted and drum-fills are added with wild abandon as RRS opens his heart to curse all the cheaters out there.

 slowest lift lp

The Slowest Lift – The Slowest Lift (VHF) Vinyl LP

This knock-out tag team: Sophie Cooper and Julian Bradley (AKA The Slowest Lift) find their spiritual home on veteran freek-retreat VHS for their debut long-player.

Let’s recap.  The Slowest Lift excels in duality.  Their coupling of (on one side) shocking distortion, tape noise and blistering huff with (on the other) soft slow voices and gentle unhurried compositions make the act of listening like dreaming through an electrical storm.

The prospect their heaving and groaning fuzz will descend into splintered chaos is always hinted at but generally inches back from the brink guided by a warm sonic-sirocco rebalancing the actors like perfectly carved chess pieces.

I guess what I’m trying to say is this is classy but still a psychic bruiser yeah?

Opener ‘Crystal Fracture’ re-imagines something like TOTO’s Africa decamped to the Devil’s Causeway and played by colourful walkers on sharp sticks.

I’m always intrigued by that songs-named-after-the-band/album-titles-named-after-the-band type of thing. Am I to assume that this song ‘The Slowest Lift’ is a mission statement?  A brief track to distil the essence of Cooper/Bradley? If so I can report back T.S.L. are a devastating cocktail of the fizzy and the smeared – think carbonated grease!

Strung-out lines of gruffly-tempered fluff skittering in a beam of yellow sunlight next…it’s ‘Bank Holiday Tuesday’ – a slow boil.  The birth of casserole-core if you will.  ‘Preset’ has the swagger of some undiscovered Ulver back-catalogue gem; cascades of VU-guitar strummage while Transylvanian horns duck and parry.

A lazy hiss of a harmonium fidgets with those darn tachyons shimmering in and out of phase on ‘Hi from the Skyline Swim’. The voice, relatively en clair is delivering a warning of sorts.  Watch out for the grandfather paradox perhaps?

Taking a breather I think what I like most is the unpolished air to this remarkable record.  The ever-so-slightly discernable patina of tape hiss when another instrument adds to the mix, it’s the sound of unfinished business.  ‘EV Plus’ is a great case in point – like two found recordings laid over each other.  T.S.L. make like archaeologists digging for treasure that their painstaking research assures them is just beneath their feet.

Song title of the month, ‘Extreme Cops’ is a sculpted meringue, chemically complex but light as air, ‘The Chauffer’ similarly buoyant   Compare and contrast to closer ‘Punched’.  A concrete overcoat, worn as you sink beneath the dock of the bay.

The Slowest Lift dog-ear a new chapter in ye olde booke of English free-mind collectives.

“SHhvvvHHHuuuhhHHHHHSshsshSShshsSH”

ampism_sleeve

F.Ampism – The Unstruck Sound Centre (Ikuisuus) Vinyl LP

A lovingly prepared Petri dish of ripe exotic beans sprouting quivering tendrils that wrap round my pink toes.

A slushy bubbling and melting ripple permeate each of these nine itchy pieces.  Each song a study in Technicolor; detail hanging heavy with Nag Champa and waxy banana leaves.

‘The Loosest Caduceus’ shudders like muscle spasms while ‘Sand/Blood/Glass’ makes me shave my head and begin a Bic-pen trepanation.  An over-reaction from an excited listener you think?  I challenge you not to seep between these vinyl grooves in search of forbidden knowledge. Me?  I napped and woke up with a frog on my tongue.  There’s no escape from the cramps!

But lovers of gritty drama and kitchen sink realism will not be disappointed by ‘Absolute Beyond Ill’ as fucking real as ‘tripping’ down the steps of the police station.

Get merry and totally bronzed with AMPISM!   Essential.

STOP PRESS: Dwellers of Sheffield ! You can watch f.ampism and a whole host of other RFM faves LIVE on Saturday 2nd December at  Regather  57-59 Club Garden Road, Sheffield, S11 8BUThis all-dayer contains Dylan Nyoukis & Kieron Piercey, Historically Fucked, Katz Mulk, Sippy Cup, Giblet Gusset, Acrid Lactations & Joincey, Luke Poot & Duncan Harrison and some joker named Posset.  Doors open at 3.30pm and the howling starts at 4pm.  Kids welcome.  More info here.

Acid Waxa

Crow versus Crow Bandcamp

Soundholes

Aphelion Editions

Coherent States

Cardboard Club / Hissing Frames

VHF Records

Ikuisuus

-ooOOoo-

a balm on our viral souls: paul margree on john butcher, umbra, brandon lopez, lodz, black hat and elizabeth veldon

November 17, 2017 at 7:12 am | Posted in new music, no audience underground | 1 Comment
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John Butcher – Resonant Spaces (Blume)

Umbra – Unglued (Baba Vanga)

Brandon Lopez – Holy Holy (Tombed Visions)

Lodz- Settlement (Wild Silence)

Black Hat – Impossible World (Hausu Mountain)

Elizabeth Veldon – Laika and Other Works (Third Kind)

 

Sniffling through the universe seems to be a seasonal guarantee for me at this time of year, as regular as my pilgrimage to Gateshead to wallow in the freshly-minted outbound sounds at the always-fantastic TUSK festival. Fortunately, the sonic blessings documented here pour down like silver from across the no-audience underground firmament. These artefacts are a balm on our viral souls. Atishoo. Much obliged.

 J-Butcher

John Butcher – Resonant Spaces (Blume) vinyl LP

Originally released on Mark Wastell’s Confront label back in 2008, this is a welcome reissue for this astonishing work of improvisation. It sees Butcher visiting obscure parts of Scotland to play gigs in sites – including an old military fuel tank in the Orkneys with a 15-second echo, as well as an abandoned reservoir, a sea cave, a mausoleum and so on –chosen for their specific, idiosyncratic acoustic properties.

If Butcher’s response to these locations is frequently astonishing – witness the serrated foghorn blasts that moan across the void in ‘New Scapa Flow’– so is the way that these places seem almost to answer his forays. In ‘Wind Piece’, recorded at the Standing Stones of Stenness on the Orkney mainland, the eerie pitch-shifted coos that merge with birdsong and Butcher’s own gurgling breaths could be emanating from the rocks themselves. This is a series of duets, really, Butcher not playing the spaces as much as tussling with them, each performance existing in an ongoing state of modification as he negotiates the different sonic qualities of each of his unusual venues.

And, while there’s a sense of Butcher being nudged constantly out of his comfort zone, there’s an accompanying feeling that he digs the brinkmanship that this requires. Raw and hypnotic, time has only increased Resonant Spaces’ power.

Umbra

Umbra – Unglued (Baba Vanga) cassette and download

Umbra ,aka Serbian sound artist Marija Balubdzic, weaves ghostly vocals over layers of abrasive electronics. Her work balances intricate, melancholy constructions with rougher-edged cuts, all created via a relatively simple setup of voice, laptop and a few pedals. ‘Unglued’ charts these opposing poles in Balubdzic’s aesthetic, casting a mysterious charisma that rewards sympathetic listening.

Occasionally, as on ‘Bear Bone’, Balubdzic resolves her disparate ingredients into a kind of quirky, jagged synth-pop. Elsewhere, her poetic monologues and growling sound design cast dark, nightmarish shapes (‘Self’). At the centre of the album is ‘Bone Madamme’, its overcast beauty like a Nick Cave murder ballad beamed through a cracked mirror. The folkish melody is half-Portishead, half-Blixa Bargeld as it shifts from despairing whisper to full-throated lament, “Don’t let him drown me down,” she implores, a thudding drum machine marking her recitation like the tolling of a funeral bell.

‘Unglued’ is another hit for the Czech Baba Vanga label, whose output encompasses dank, industrial crunches, Muscovite sound art collage and battered, head-spinning techno. Drawing most of their releases from the fringes of the eastern European underground, it’s essential listening for anyone into the global diaspora of weirdo sounds.

Holy Holy

Brandon Lopez – Holy Holy (Tombed Visions) CD and download

I first came across bassist Brandon Lopez as part of Amirtha Kidambi’s amazing Elder Ones band, lending his fluid licks to Kidambi’s ‘Holy Science’, an inspired mixture of classical Indian music and portal-opening jazz. Here, Lopez teams up with drummer Chris Corsano and pianist Sam Yulman to form a free music perpetual motion machine whose limber voyaging takes in abrasive furrows and airy melodic flights.

Although Lopez provided several composed melodic fragments for these pieces in lieu of a full score, which act as launch pads for the band’s expansive journeys, the trio is given plenty of freedom to take things in any direction they want. The fact that we can’t detect the points of transition only adds to the potency. A highlight comes two thirds of the way through the opening cut ’15.43’, when the trio coordinate in the higher register in a cascading, ululating wail, before hitting a surging torrent that recalls the maximalist swell of The Necks in full live force.

Corsano’s presence is generally an indicator of quality, and Lopez’s pedigree is assured post-Elder Ones, but it’s Yulman who’s the real delight here. His flinty clusters of notes shower ‘8.05’, the album’s closing track, in tough, glittering shards, opening up the trio’s frantic rhythmic glowers to let the sunshine in. His intro to ’21.21’ is dissonant and stately, initially restrained enough to let the other two drift by, then gaining pace to kick off a fractious knees-up. Holy jazz, Batman, this is really free.
Lodz

 Lodz – Settlement (Wild Silence) CD-R and download

Like a photograph of beautiful countryside that on closer inspection reveals a hooded figure skulking in the woods, Lodz – aka musician and philosopher Pauline Nadringy – mixes pastoral calm with spooky unease. Piano and female voice, often signifiers of deeply-felt emotion, are transformed into affectless, skeletal chants that would be disquieting even before grumbling electronics and prickly guitar figures eat away at their frayed edges.

‘Settlement’ offers us 10 of Nadrigny’s otherworldly soundscapes, with several matching reverb-laden piano figures with poems from writers including Guillaume Appollinaire and Hilde Domine. Nadringy’s treatments of these poems is elegant and inventive, often double-tracking herself singing and speaking the lines as well as providing wordless backing vocals. The texts come to us as if through a labyrinth of voices, their exact meaning less important than the sonic qualities of the syllables themselves.

‘Kasper Hausar Lied’ sets the Swiss poet Philippe Jaccottet’s text among a subtle cacophony of prepared piano and squeaking electronics, John Cage meets Vashti Bunyan.

‘Que fait la mésange?’ by contrast seems to be aiming for a kind of chamber Troplicalia, with birdsong, children’s voices, toys and flutes cloaking Nadrigny’s murmurations in an agreeable hubbub. The whole thing is reminiscent of ruined Belle Époque ballroom populated by elegantly wrecked ghosts. Time for my quadrille, mon chere.

Black Hat

 Black Hat – Impossible World (Hausu Mountain) Cassette and download

As Black Hat, Oakland’s Nelson Bean sculpts gummy electronics into viscous, smooth-edged lumps. These glistening pulsations are beatific and mysterious, somewhere between Aphex Twin’s ravey wickedness and Autechre’s crystalline sierras in the firmament of nonconformist electronics.

‘Impossible World’ is Bean’s second release on Chicago’s Hausu Mountain, after 2014’s ‘Thought of Two’. Although ‘Impossible World’ papers over its predecessor’s scuffed mechanics with a dermatological sheen, both albums have a precision-tooled edge that reveals the intricate depths beneath their curvilinear shapes. It’s head music I think, and even the drum-marked cuts such as ‘Cucullu’ that punctuate ‘Impossible World’s’ sticky ambient puddles hold back from full on beat fury, their off-centre cutups setting a flight path for the head rather than the hips.

Bean’s secret is to balance his love of detail on tracks like ‘Headband’, whose spongy synth chords and pastel bloops lock together like the tiny gears of a dayglo wristwatch, with empathy. Thus the soft, beaming explosions that smatter ‘Heliotrope’ add a spacey lyricism to its growling arrhythmia, prompting ever more giggles on each listen. Maybe we aren’t the robots, after all.

EV

Elizabeth Veldon – Laika and Other Works (Third Kind) Cassette and download

Digital services such as Bandcamp may be better at matching Elizabeth Veldon’s prodigious rate of release – an album every day or so, usually – but this lovely cassette package from Brighton’s Third Kind Tapes is a welcome reminder of the riches that lurk in this prolific artist’s back catalogue.

‘Laika and Other Works ’is a collection of drone based pieces, short piano improvisations and spoken word cuts that showcases both the diversity and quality of Veldon’s discography. It’s all very good, basically, although the two ‘Laika’ tracks (originally released in 2015) are the highlight for me, their slices of gravely, phasing drone coming on appropriately cosmic and ominous. On ‘Like Babies Who Cannot Speak’ a recurring metronomic pulse adds an extra element of tension, as if a squad of militant woodpeckers had taken over mission control.

That things never descend into retro-hipster-kitsch (Russians! dogs! Space! Communism!) is due partly to ‘Work With Animals’, a new spoken word piece. Veldon recites then loops a quote from Oleg Georgivitch Gazenko, part of the Sputnik 2team responsible for Laika’s mission: “Work with animals is a source of suffering for all of us. We treat them like babies who cannot speak. The more time passes, the more I’m sorry about it….We did not learn enough from the mission to justify the death of the dog.”

The four sentences get more fragmented with each repetition, descending finally into a kind of heartbreaking digital gibberish. It’s short but powerful and shifts ‘Laika & Other Works’ from being a historical curio to a lament for the forgotten victims of the space race and a despairing castigation of the ways we treat those species with which we share a planet.

 

John Butcher

Baba Vanga

Tombed Visions

Wild Silence

Hausu Mountain

Third Kind Records

-ooOOoo-

shuffling huffer: rfm on cannon bone, ivy nostrum, penance stare, depletion and neil campbell

November 10, 2017 at 4:29 pm | Posted in new music, no audience underground | Leave a comment
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Cannon Bone – At a Canter (Nice Chapeau Records)

Ivy Nostrum – Genuflection Maps (No Label)

Penance Stare – House of Bastet (No Label)

Depletion – Lost Signals (Matching Head)

Neil Campbell – Think not of the Glasses but of the Drink (Chocolate Monk)

cannonbone

Cannon Bone – At a Canter (Nice Chapeau Records) Vinyl LP and digital album

Om, Lightning Bolt, Ruins.

Rocking bass and drums duos are thin on the ground eh?  So add another much-needed twosome to this proud duo-pile.  Ladies and Gentlemen, allow me to introduce Cannon Bone.

Nottingham-based duo Daniel Murray (bass) and Rich Park (drums) reject the ubiquitous six-string and its ceaseless attention-seeking for a solid, dependable rhythm approach that still blisters like hot Szechuan pepper.

The riff becomes the king, repetition the queen and together they rule a land of lurid flexible strings and tightly wound skins.

Half instrumental / half traditional sung-song the ghosts of Roxy Music, Young Marble Giants and the aforementioned Ruins haunt tunes like ‘Seahorse’, ‘Is that OK?’ and ‘Progressive Dancing Shoe’ respectively.

Such an eclectic mix revels in the invention going back-to-basics requires so detail becomes focused on textures, the quality of the fuzz and the dry crack of a snare.  It’s so easy to get lost in the canyons of fizzing electricity and compressed air each side plays in a sort of deceptive time-puddle.  The more you poke your stick in the deeper it gets.

But all this is mere dressing to the powerfully muscular playing – a rigorous and elemental musical snarl as infectious as Darby Crash’s dental work.

The dynamics are indeed the key here so the punishing pounding is coupled with a delicate tom roll, the explosive bass-harmonix smother a melody that’s perfectly cherry, cherry.

Like a horseshoe in a boxing glove – K.O. to Cannon Bone!

Ivy Nostrum

Ivy Nostrum – Genuflection Maps (No Label) Lurid pink Cassette

Two side-long constructions pieced together by the fair hand of RFM scrivener Paul Margree.

The helpful sleeve notes say these pieces feature the autoharp (broken), domestic field recordings and free sound among other wonderful things.  But what they don’t say is how damn lovely some of this is.

The autoharp pieces are bright and sunny; each broken pluck becomes a golden beam of light.  The electronic bleats are neither too sharp nor too gritty and seem to be formed instead from fresh pink marzipan being all smooth and almondy.

Side B ‘We Weren’t Really Dressed for the Weather’ features some speech software rattling around like an embarrassed Orac in a ruptured poly tunnel until the autoharp make another Wicca appearance. Lo-impact movements clatter like Tupperware underneath some charming whistling.

But of course…like much musique concrète it’s the placement that makes the thing sing.  I don’t know why a low undulating throb sits so perfectly with human-child chatter and bulbous metallic ringing.  But it does…it most certainly does.

Not sure where you can even grab this pink tape – tweeting @PaulMargree might be a good place to start yeah.

penance stare

Penance Stare – House of Bastet (No Label) Cassette and digital album

Ex-Etai Keshiki and Melting’s, ELN plays all manner of guitars, basses, synths, drum machines and effects boxes to create a super-dark compressed tablet of riffage on the mighty House of Bastet.

A true one-woman-black-metal-band she does what is seemingly impossible and makes a drum machine really swing on awesome closer ‘Bleaken’ as it well and truly admonishes the gas-bloated riffs.   But I’m getting ahead of myself…

These four songs seem to blur the edges between industrial, shoegaze and black metal taking the most interesting elements of each and dousing it with lighter fluid.  For an old duffer like me, who, although a fan, doesn’t listen to metal much anymore this is a breath of fresh air.

Opener ‘Persona Non Grata’ has the heft of Godflesh yet the brutal riffs are played with an almost funk sense of timing – it’s all about the accents and half-spaces; rejecting the 4/4 for a more freewheeling, loose attack.  ‘A Lack of All Things’ and ‘Moon in Scorpio’ , are no-less heavy and feature ultra-disturbed vocals buried way, way deep in the mix so they sound almost like the wind rushing through nude branches.

This tape plays the same on both sides so before long I’m back to that killer fourth track ‘Bleaken’.  And now I’m more accustomed to the black-grammar I can make out the faintest howls under that pulverising thrashing – squaring that circle, lighting the thirteenth candle.

Thanks – Andy Crow for extra journalistic brain-power on this one.

Depletion

Depletion – Lost Signals (Matching Head) One-sided Cassette

Cold psychic disturbance from Depletion all wrapped up in black and grey photocopies.

Never one for pure noise-for-noise-sake Martyn Reid pitches his monochrome tones against each other creating deft occult harmonics.

The opener ‘Intra Muros’ sets up a warm baffling of feathered obstacles.  The soft oily edges soon reveal sharp poisoned barbs but only after you realise your ankles are streaked with blood.

‘Elegy’ appears to be a gradually descending note made of brushed steel that’s being dragged down an underpass.  The heavy throb of traffic makes the concrete rumble until all begins to vibrate in electric unison.

Machine thinking is captured on ‘Synthex 1’.  Let’s be honest…it was never going to be the mechanical clanking predicted in the 1950s but more like this smooth logical curve – effortlessly coiling and unwinding picking up the stray debris of algebra and the universal language of mathematics.   And what does that mean for ‘Synthex 2’?  As this has an altogether more abrasive feel, toothed and barbaric in places even, I guess the machines have discovered capitalism.

The dramatic closer ‘Deaths Door’ finally seems to make sense of the cryptic dedication to Virginia Maskell mentioned on the sleeve.  A shuffling huffer, there is no clean machinery or warm analogue here.  This is the foul breath of an underground tube tunnel; meaty-moist and sweetly overpowering.  The resulting shuddering shakes like a wet dog with arcs of spray as crooked as arthritic fingers.

Neil Campbell

Neil Campbell – Think not of the Glasses but of the Drink (Chocolate Monk) CD-r

When I was a young teen a dusty, many-dubbed tape circulated my group of friends.  Handed down from an older brother or sister (I forget which) it contained songs by The Very Things, Alien Sex Fiend, Ausgang and The Virgin Prunes. For me this was a Rosetta Stone document.  Being under 18 (and looking it) I had no way into the underground culture of clubs.  Records were expensive and most zines I had access to ignored this fascinating middle ground between the chart pop I’d been brought up on and the weirdness I’d sniffed but couldn’t quite locate.

I’m guessing Neil Campbell had a similar moment but was obviously knocked hardest by The Virgin Prunes.  Hard enough for him to claim them as his favourite band – and I’m sure you can all remember how important and considered that personal accolade is when you are a young person*.

But what does it all sound like? These are ‘re-imaginings and reactions to’ rather than straight covers I’m guessing.  On ‘Political Problems’ Neil’s rich baritone voice intones a set of eldritch lines, at first reading like poetry and then slipping and sliding over each other to end up perilously looped ‘like a crazy singer in a band that’s lost for words’ over Neil’s signature wet electronic squelch.

Teasing us with an almost four minute fade-in ‘Red Metal’ conjures up micro-moments of guitar pick and electric squall in a lovely, lovely drift-piece.  Gradually shifting like winter sunlight this warms up the bones like a good chicken soup and somehow makes me feel pretty darn Christmas-y!

The closer, a Bongwater-esque, ‘No Clouds were in the Sky’ is quite beautiful.  A folk-tinged wriggle of acoustic guitar loops/looped vocals/spoken word/freak-out electricals all writhing like fresh chicks in a nest.

Innocent? You bet.  And with innocence possibly one of the hardest emotions to get right in music I’m sure that Gavin Friday would be delighted.

*I’m assuming you are an oldster like me eh?

Cannon Bone Bandcamp / Cannon Bone World

Penance Stare Bandcamp

Chocolate Monk

-ooOOoo-

have cake/eat it: rob hayler on tusk festival 2017

November 4, 2017 at 11:34 am | Posted in midwich, musings, no audience underground | 2 Comments
Tags:

TUSK Festival 2017

[Note: for part one of this year’s TUSK story, in which I talk about the year past, how I blagged onto the bill, what I planned to do and what it meant to me, see here. This part is about the festival itself and begins on the morning of Friday 13th October. Also, I’d like to repeat the same provisos as last year. Firstly, I won’t be mentioning every act, not even all those I saw and enjoyed, as creating An Exhaustive List Of Everything That Happened is not my bag. Secondly, I won’t be mentioning everyone I spoke to because I don’t want to allocate some to this ‘highlights’ package and not others. Safe to say that every conversation I had with you lovely people I enjoyed very much. Finally, I’m not cluttering what follows with links, nor topping it with a cloud of tags – I’d suggest having the TUSK website open on another tab and hunting and pecking as appropriate. TUSK will fill the archives with videos of all performances in due course. If no credit is given then pictures are by me, apart from the last one.  OK, enuff – on with the show.]

FRIDAY

If I am not at least 10 minutes early then I feel late. Stir that perfectly rational compulsion into a gumbo of stress and excitement and it is no surprise that I was at Leeds railway station a full hour before the departure time for my train. I took the edge off by chatting to an amiable, middle-aged, Glaswegian rocker – all Chrissie Hynde bang and black and white spandex leggings. Her phone rang and the tone was the opening bars of ‘Sweet Child of Mine’. Beautiful. Once the train arrived, 40 minutes late due to ‘police attention at Sheffield’, I’d been sat there for longer than the journey would actually take.

But – ahh! – who doesn’t enjoy staring wistfully out of a train window listening to crystalline electronic music whilst pretending to be in a European art movie? Alas, this Kraftwerkian reverie was impossible. The carriage was packed, the seat cramped, the luggage rack a stack of cases as unviable as a jenga tower made of dog chews. Even a soundtrack of A480 by KARA-LIS COVERDALE couldn’t gloss the snores of the drunk bloke in front. Luckily the hotel was mere steps from the station and I was able to get there, check in and throw my stuff down in minutes. My dinky single room, with ensuite wet room and surprisingly large telly, was pleasantly functional, like a prison cell for hipsters. I imagine it’s like where you’d end up if you were convicted of burning down Scandinavian churches.

The reason I was in a hurry was that I wanted to get to Shipley Art Gallery in Gateshead in time for the FESTIVAL IS SUDDEN performance at 3pm. I splashed into a cab (such rock and roll decadence!) and was there with mere minutes to spare. The show, organized by Giles Bailey and CIRCA projects (Dawn Bothwell, Adam Denton, Sam Watson – more on Dawn and Adam anon) was the opening event of their MY PART OF YOUR HOME exhibition and the de facto beginning of TUSK weekend. I’m afraid I clocked little of this compact, elegant gallery, or its contents, as I was too busy glad-handing and being overexcited beforehand, then too busy being engrossed by the ritual unfolding.

It was a very smart idea, perfectly executed: six artists, set up in different parts of the building, performed for ten minutes each. Dawn carried a cylindrical, portable speaker – emitting bird song – which she placed in front of the performer when their time was up, we then followed the chirping to the next station. Each segment seemed full, but not rushed, which was amazing as they included, for example, slowly evolving drone from CULVER (pictured) and two dance performances, one from BIANCA SCOUT framed within beautiful piano pieces and one from VICTORIA GUY in which she didn’t stop spinning even during a costume change. The experience as a whole was deeply satisfying and (this is not a bad thing) emotionally draining. After snatching brief ‘hellos’ with Dawn and some of the other stragglers/organisers I joined those ushered out into the sun so the gallery could close. I walked back through a bright, blustery afternoon, being nearly run over at every junction, burning my mouth on delicious fish and chips as I trotted in more or less the right direction. A knot I’d been carrying between my shoulder blades for who knows how long seemed to unravel. I found myself very, very happy.

Back at the hotel I had time to sort out my gear and despair at my useless packing. Given that I’d done nowt but think about TUSK for weeks how on earth had I managed to bring so few shirts and so much underwear? I mean DUNCAN HARRISON is a very beautiful young man but I wasn’t expecting to literally wet myself with excitement in his presence. Ach, no matter, time to stumble down the hill, across the swing bridge over the Tyne and up the other side to Sage.

I arrived to find DRONE ENSEMBLE in full flight on the concourse and, disgracefully, paid them absolutely no attention. Instead I wandered about saying ‘hello’ to people, shaking hands, babbling into ears – mainly those of long-suffering gentle giant Joe Murray, RFM editor and one of TUSK’s organisers, and Paul Margree formally of We Need No Swords, now plying his trade with RFM and anywhere else words meet noise…

…I even clapped at the end as if I’d been listening. What an arsehole, eh? Heh, heh. As I topped the stairs Duncan rushed past on his way backstage and I pressed a package into his hand. I shivered with pleasure as Joe helped me secure my Artist/Crew weekend wristband and, as it contained an introduction written by me, bagged three copies of the programme.

The evening’s entertainment in the prestige venue, Sage Hall 2, started with a right good kick up the arse. The expectant crowd were confronted with four – occupied – body bags and the performance began with a nightmarish sequence as the members of SWARM FRONT screamed, groaned, clawed and cut their way out. The remainder of the set was a theatre of cruelty: lines were intoned, sung, bellowed (“Get this into your thick fucking skull”, “You can’t have your cake and eat it.”) and melons bearing the faces of Gateshead councillors were violently despatched whilst a power-electronic soundtrack rearranged my viscera.

Looking for clues in the programme (“…here with the intention to weaponize the banality of liberal institutions…”) and talking to Dawn afterwards suggested this was a protest/curse focused on those responsible for the imminent closure of important, much loved Gateshead venue The Old Police House and/or the faux progressive credentials of the Sage itself (bit more on this later). Fucking strong start.

DUNCAN HARRISON prepped his gear as the stage crew mopped up blood and melon pulp (ha, c’mon, being able to write sentences like that is why I’m in this game). I was pleased to see the present I’d given him – a framed photo of John Cage (explanation unnecessary) – looking over his table full of noise-making detritus. His set was a lesson from a virtuoso on how to collage subtlety and humour with mallet-to-the-knackers noise. The opening section of real-time tape rec and scruffle was masterful, the glugly pop and repeat vocals charming and intimate and the hard noise – a bunch of tinnitus enhancing key chain alarms laid out like a Pueblo clown’s protecting chalk circle – suitably punishing. The audience, including me, was rapt, delighted.

There was just time for a little professional jealousy before THE TEA TOWELS rocked up. This duo of Gavin Montgomery and RFM staffer Luke Vollar, both ex of no-audience underground legends Castrato Attack Group, happened to be in the right ear at the right time when SHAREHOLDER pulled out so two tapes and no gigs into their ‘career’ here they are filling a prime Friday evening slot at TUSK! Bollocks to that – 18 bloody years, I (half) joked and I had to beg my way into a Saturday bloody lunchtime show in a glorified school assembly hall! Huh, showbiz is cruel, eh?

Anyway, my inner David Van Day was banished as soon as they started playing. I was hooked, grinning at the guileless lo-fi thump and groove. I wrote a long list of possible influences but pretty much anything can be poured into the rubber jelly mould these chancers were using as a template. I had Bongoleeros as the sponge fingers at the bottom, rising to Camberwell Now as the sprinkles on the top with the intervening trifle liberally laced with crushed co-codamol and dark rum. You might as well just grab a big spoon and enjoy it. They went down a treat.

At this point tiredness, over-excitement and anticipation of a full-on Saturday began to smear my focus. I understand VALERIO TRICOLI was a festival highlight for some, but for me ten minutes sufficed and the rest of his set provided a handy break for socialising outside before headliners UNITED BIBLE STUDIES.

(Top pic by Joincey, @joincey)

I’ve had an interest in UBS and affiliated label Deserted Village for years (check out Gavin Prior’s Always Summer Somewhere – one of my favourite albums of recent times) and was looking forward to being transported by these veterans of cosmic and free folk. The experience was sure to be enhanced too by the presence in the line-up of Sophie Cooper – genius musician, daring promoter, RFM alumni, all-round enthusiast and glorious credit to the species – on vocals and trombone. I have to admit to sniggering a bit at the ‘misty forest’ nature of the lyrics – never been able to take that seriously – but what I did see was presented with care, skill and passion. I’m sure if I’d been in a fitter, or perhaps more altered, state it would have been transcendent. As it was I had to admit that it wasn’t for me – or, more accurately, that I wasn’t for it – and slink away back to the hotel, feeling like a ghost as I picked my way unheeded through the chaos of chucking out time on the Newcastle side of the river.

SATURDAY

My artist info sheet requested my presence at the venue at 11am on Saturday morning so, of course, I was settled in Sage at 10. I sat at a window table on the concourse and distractedly tried to revise my notes. After about fifteen minutes of stress induced gastric tightening I risked lifting a cheek for what I hoped would be a discreet puff but instead I let rip with possibly the loudest fart of my entire life. Ricocheting off the plastic chair it reverberated around the vast atrium like the whole of yesterday’s DRONE ENSEMBLE set condensed into three wet seconds. I mention this event for two reasons. Firstly, it was well funny. I couldn’t help laughing, as did the bloke sitting three tables away from me. I was, after all, a stone’s throw from the birthplace of Viz comic. Secondly, it was one of those beautiful bodily sensations – like a hot shower after a day’s walk, like listening to Aqua Dentata, like eating a really good fish finger sandwich – that leaves you feeling absolutely content and in tune with the universe. Sure, I’d still be nervous but I knew the day ahead was going to be just fine.

At about ten thirty I trotted upstairs and over the next two hours I met the lovely Orchi and David the stage manager who were going to help me through the afternoon, had the great pleasure of shaking hands with ANDREW LILES, said hello to the ever-accommodating Joe who was to be my beautiful assistant during the show later, plugged in my midwich set up FOR THE LAST TIME…

(Pic by Duncan Harrison, @Young_Arms)

…and was bear-hugged by my old mucker Ben Young, university friend and Newcastle resident who had a day pass to hang out. I also chatted to Lee Etherington, TUSK head honcho, who was exhibiting his tidy knack of appearing at exactly the right moment to exude an air of relaxed confidence and say helpful and reassuring things. He is the Mr Benn’s shopkeeper of the avant-garde. I sloped out of ANDREW LILE’s satisfyingly chewy set at the halfway mark to meet up with my panellists and, all of a sudden, it was time for the WHAT HAPPENS UNDERGROUND discussion.

(Pic by Joincey, @joincey)

We settled into our comfy chairs, toyed with the microphones we’d been given and I started proceedings by reading a round of introductions:

My name is Rob Hayler and I’ll be your host for this hour (Aside: yes, I did write down my own name – I can usually remember it, true, but I thought it best not to tempt fate in this high pressure situation). For the last 18 years I have performed and recorded as midwich and my LAST EVER SHOW using that name will follow this talk. I also founded the radio free midwich blog and coined the term ‘no-audience underground’ to describe the largely self-sufficient noise scene that some of us here are part of.

Next is Soo Fitz, or Susan Fitzpatrick as her Mam might insist. As well as performing as Joyce Whitchurch and as half of Acrid Lactations, Soo lectures in Geography and has written on such topics as the spatial politics of DIY gigs and the ways the term ‘community’ gets deployed and politicised in the context of urban mega events such as the European Capital of Culture. My RFM colleague Joe Murray described her as “one of the most frighteningly pure improvisers I’ve had the joy to watch.”

Hopefully everyone here will recognize Duncan Harrison from his gobsmacking performance in Sage 2 last night (Aside: I wrote that before Duncan’s performance, of course, but luckily he had smacked our gobs). Duncan is a skilled collagist in both visual and audio art and we love his work because as well as being properly thought through it never fails to be thoroughly entertaining. He’s no stranger to academia but is happy call out bollocks when he hears it and to get dirt under his fingernails with us no-audience scuzzbuckets.

…and here’s Dawn Bothwell. Dawn should be well known ’round these parts, not least for her performance in Hen Ogledd with Rhodri Davies and Richard Dawson at last year’s TUSK and for her other musical projects such as Pentecostal Party. She also curates for CIRCA Projects and The Northern Charter and those that visit The Shipley Art Gallery here in Gateshead during the festival can see the My Part Of Your Home exhibition that CIRCA Projects put together. Yesterday’s Festival is Sudden event there was a great kick start to this year’s TUSK too.

Finally, Adam Denton. A musician and researcher with a background in guitar noise and releases on many very smart labels, Adam plays solo as Swan Hunter, is half of the duo Trans/Human and has worked extensively with Nicole Vivien Watson of Surface Area Dance Theatre. Joe Murray’s one sentence account of his work runs as follows: “generally has a load of gear on the table and makes it all sound pretty gnarly.” (Aside: Adam groaned afterwards at how out of date this account of his activities was so I recommend interested parties get busy with Google to catch up.)

Interesting bunch, eh? I began by asking each panellist in turn for some ideas as to what it means to be ‘underground’ nowadays and we took it from there. As I have no notes or transcript it is safest to wait to hear what was said for yourself once it is available via the TUSK archive. I’ll just talk a bit about the experience and some thoughts that occurred to me as a result. Firstly, having a microphone and a large room full of people waiting to hear what you have to say isn’t entirely alien to me but I haven’t done it for years, nor have I ever had to do the cat-herding needed to keep a five-way, real-time discussion on track in front of an audience. I had, naively perhaps, imagined a light, celebratory hour during which we praised each other’s efforts, made recommendations, told d.i.y. stories and slapped a few sacred cows on the arse, and there was some of that, but there was also plenty of darker and more serious stuff about the appropriation of ‘culture’ and ‘community’, suspicions as to the motives and competence of funding bodies and concerns about the availability of venues and the overall future for d.i.y. art and music.

The topic that has stuck with me is the question of the availability of venues. What with the Old Police House being closed after TUSK weekend and the actions of Gateshead Council clearly causing anger and frustration – see Friday night’s SWARM FRONT performance for one righteously furious spin on it – this issue is currently an open wound. It seems to me that running a venue is not something I have given sufficient thought to in my, *ahem* ‘theorising’. As a promoter I follow the ‘Dan Thomas method’: work out what you can afford to lose on the event, plan accordingly, find ways of getting it done. As an artist I don’t think I’m owed a damn thing, not even by the very few people who give a monkey’s about my ‘work’. However, the lass from building regulations will not be satisfied with a vegan curry and taxi fare, nor can the electricity bill be settled with £20 from the door and a sofa to sleep on. This seems to be the place where all my punkish nobility and integrity gets bloodied by grim reality.

That said, there does always seem to be somewhere. In the decades I’ve been attending shows here in Leeds, for example, many venues have been and gone, or remain and go through phases of welcome or hostility depending on changes in management (The Adelphi – once a Tetley draymen’s pub and spiritual home of Termite Club is now a place where beardos nod approvingly at how reasonable ten quid is for a burger). One of the benefits of there not being many of us is that we don’t need a giant box to sit in. Adam suggested, in a despairing tone, that the future might be gigs in people’s houses but I think, well, yeah, on a temporary basis whilst we sort stuff out, why not? One of the finest shows I’ve seen in recent years was Ocelocelot in Kieran Piercy’s basement… We survive, like the rats we are.

But I digress…

At the end of the hour Sophie Cooper, sat out front, piped up with a glorious gush of love and enthusiasm for music, her friends and the scene and that gave me the opportunity to end on a high. I’d like to take this opportunity to thank Soo, Duncan, Adam and Dawn for being game and joining me – I’m sure we could have gone on all afternoon once we’d got warmed up. It was a great thing to be part of and I’ve been pleased that reaction to the debate has been positive with many commenting that it provided food for thought.

One last thing: I promised Lee Stokoe that there would be some biting of the hands that feed us and, aside from swearing at The Guardian, I feel bad for wimping out on that. So, for the record: fuck The Guardian (again) for its sudden and pathetic ‘interest’ in the underground, that rag has become a disgrace to its legacy. Fuck The Wire for being an unreadable, soulless, joy vacuum. Fuck The Quietus for being even worse: a relic of an irrelevant critical empire, a black hole of boredom. Fuck Sage for being a ‘liberal arts’ funding-hoover whilst hosting UKIP and licking up corporate vomit in return for sponsorship money. Fuck the Arts Council for, whoo boy, where to even start with that hive of corruption, that shameful gibberish factory? And finally, fuck TUSK for… heh, heh – nah, TUSK is alright. Sand in the vaseline, innit?

Up next was midwich. Excuse me quoting myself from my previous post…

Anyone who has spoken to me before or after any midwich gig of recent years has heard me complaining about the growing unreliability of the Roland MC-303 Groovebox that has been (almost) my sole instrument since 1999. It’s a remarkable machine but it has been hammered to the point that getting what I want out of it involves an ungainly combo of cajoling and brute force. I have long spoken of a ‘final’ performance. This would be a ‘Greatest Hits package’ ending with the tearing up of the manual and the dismantling of the machine, handing out keys, pots and components to audience members as souvenirs. What more satisfyingly perverse way could there be to end a long term man/machine relationship than with a ritual disembowelment at a prestige venue?

…as this is pretty much what happened. I took my boots off, announced what was to occur and pressed play on a recording of seagulls over Chesil Beach.

(Pic by Joincey, @joincey)

I was having my cake and eating it here – sounds of the sea are a ridiculous ‘ambient’ music cliché but, even so, it does still set the mood and it is a lovely piece. When I was ready I slowly faded up into a drone and started wigging out to the rhythms emerging from it. The sound was perfect (hey, it can always be louder), the vibe immersive, the lighting sympathetic, the room full. Much to my amusement I even had a smoke machine. I was very, very happy – in the moment – enjoying myself hugely.

(Pic by Joe Murray, @joeposset)

As an interlude I used Joe’s piece as posset from eye for detail, the charity fundraiser album of midwich remixes. ‘a moment of stillness’ is a selection of my writing for this blog, read by Joe then subjected to his dictaphonic jinking. From this I began a version of the title track from Inertia Crocodile – this throb, collapsing in on itself, was the pan sonic tribute part of the set and, I thought, a fitting last track to play live on this beautiful, soulful machine. It ended with a crescendo as I used both hands and my forehead to hold down every key – this was my ‘A Day in the Life’ moment – before the final hands off.

(Above Joincey, @joincey, below Joe, @joeposset)

OK, now the theatre. I pressed play on my little mp3 walkman again, this time the brunt, a favourite lengthy drone I was going to use as cover and – because I thought it would be funny – put on a white crime scene investigation overall that I’d lifted from a murder mystery themed works away day, comically struggling to get my right arm in. As Sophie wailed…

DON’T DO IT!

I flipped the box and got busy with the screwdriver. The screws were tiny, black and fixed into a black backplate so under the dim stage light and with wildly shaking hands it took a moment to get started. For the obvious reason, I couldn’t rehearse this so I was going off some half-remembered service-and-repair pictures I’d seen on the internet. I had planned a gentle and respectful demise – surgery not butchery – but, as I couldn’t find a couple of hidden screws, I resorted to force to yank out the ribbons and snap the circuitry. It felt… good, complicated. Whilst this was going on Joe distributed the torn pages of the manual in school assembly style (“Take one and pass them along please, I’m afraid you’ll have to share.”). I slipped a couple of bits – including the volume control, bane of our relationship – into my own pocket and lined up the rest of the pieces on the floor in front of the stage.

(Pic by Joe, @joeposset)

To everyone’s amusement, David the stage manager lit them with a swirly lighting effect. And that was that: 18 years of midwich, done. I faded out the soundtrack, took a bow, dug the applause and invited all comers to snatch a souvenir. It was one of the most enjoyable and satisfying moments of my involvement with music, with the ‘underground’, with all of this.

(Pic by Joincey, @joincey, note Andy of TQ fanzine in the foreground making off with a massive chunk.)

Fortunately, no other act was following me in the hall so I had a few precious minutes to gather myself together and pack up with the house lights on. David Howcroft of No Audience Underground tapes (see review below) took the entire contents of the bin I’d dumped my CSI suit into so look out for some interestingly packaged tapes from him. I walked out feeling triumphant and shamelessly fished for compliments amongst those milling around on the balcony (although I did make sure and ask Mike Xazzaz if he liked it because I knew that surly bastard would be honest and say ‘no’ which, of course, he did. Heh, heh – I love him so much). When sufficient approbation had been collected I wandered back across the river to the hotel with my pal Ben. At this point I began to notice the blood and cuts all over my hands.

Ben and I met at university in Leeds in 1991 where we shared digs and both studied philosophy. I will be forever grateful that being around the insufferable bell-end that I was at the time (can you imagine me in my early twenties? I shudder at my former twattitude) didn’t put him off me for life and was delighted when we rekindled contact a few years back after he discovered this blog. Now a Newcastle resident and the father of a young lad himself we had arranged to cane Saturday together, albeit in a gentle, tired, middle-aged manner.

The original plan was to go to everything, including the afternoon show at The Old Police House to see LUSH WORKER, but once we sat down in a hipsterish pizza restaurant (it had a full size model of a horse, painted gold, looking out of the doorway – its arse in line with two pizza ovens inside) it was clear we weren’t going anywhere. Ben listened graciously to me babble on about what had just happened – I was beginning to feel a little shaky as the buzz subsided and was replaced with a diabetic hypo – then we caught up on life, parenthood, the world at large. Ben’s unimpeachable politics and the thoughtful, generous way he deals with the insanity surrounding us is an inspiration. His company was perfect.

Eventually we hauled ourselves out and back to Sage for an evening of socializing, showing off my workplace injuries and one damn musical highlight after another. Aside from greatly missing our Mexican cousin Miguel Perez whose appearance had made last year such an unforgettable event (I understand he watched the livestream of my set – bless you, comrade!) the 2017 line-up felt much stronger and more consistent throughout the weekend than that of 2016.

Take, for example, KINK GONG. Laurent Janneau – looking cool as fuck in this wonderful photo by Joe – presented a forty minute collage of chopped and layered field recordings, ebbing and flowing in a near-psychedelic audio approximation of culture shock, of travelling far outside your comfort zone. He also invited us to sit down and relax at the beginning of the set which was very polite. I welcomed the opportunity to stare at my shoes and concentrate entirely on the music though looking up revealed that rarest of exotic birds: a lap top artist who looked genuinely transported by what they were doing. He stared intently, smiled, closed his eyes, nodded to a favourite rhythm internal to the cacophony. It was a beautiful, charismatic performance.

(Pic by Paul Margree, @PaulMargree)

Following that was one of the highlights of the festival, one of those joyous ‘what the fuck?’ moments that are la spécialité de la maison chez TUSK. STARAYA DEREVNYA, a collective of Russian/Isreali anarchists, played in near-total darkness in order to shift our attention from their strange collection of instruments, some clearly home-made or adopted (a rocking chair?), to the work of the artist using iPad software (an app called Tagtool apparently) to create and animate a visual accompaniment projected onto the screen above. I later found out that the band had pre-planned beginning, middle and end points and the rest was improvised, albeit rehearsed in a very disciplined way for a week beforehand. The visual side was sometimes a prompt or spur for the music, sometimes an interpretation of or reaction to what was being played.

At the time, stood in the dark, I knew nothing of these logistics and was simply and absolutely rapt. It was psychedelic and truly dream-like in a way that so little art described as ‘surreal’ gets anywhere near. It was fluid and varied in tone but consistent in atmosphere and never felt unsure of itself. Their was something folkloric about the vibe – like listening to a recording of your great great grandmother telling stories about what lived in the woods on the outskirts of her village in the old country, slipping in and out of a forgotten dialect as she reached back for the details. Ben and I chatted to the lovely Gosha, STARAYA DEREVNYA’s head honcho (for want of a better description), afterwards and he was humble and gracious as we gushed with praise.

(Pic by Paul Margree, @PaulMargree)

Decades of involvement with noise have left me cynical and suspicious of costumes (likewise mess. As a former promoter I rarely enjoy it – this weekend’s melon pulp excepted, of course – as my first thought is ‘oh great, someone is missing the last bus to clean up that crap.’). There seems to be a zero sum relationship between the elaborateness of the set-up and the generic averageness of the actual music: ‘oh great, Mr. Blobby has heard a Merzbow CD’. With that in mind I stood at the back near the stairs for HANS GRUSEL’S KRANKENKABINET but I needn’t have worried – it was ace.

Their squalling racket had an exuberant bounce to it, the rubbery al dente texture of a highly processed, alarmingly coloured food stuff, allegedly of ‘natural’ origin but about eight times removed by the laboratories of food science. The outfits – they were basically dressed as a gingerbread village – suggested the same folkloric setting as the tales interpreted by STARAYA DEREVNYA but this time described by a four year old after binging on cheese strings.

Finally then, Saturday was topped by BRAINBOMBS. At this point I was grey with tiredness and all set to split but the most un-TUSK-like behaviour of the crowd spiked me with something I remembered from my teenage years as a skate punk. There were a lot of people, mainly serious looking dudes in black t-shirts, intent on getting to the front. This was clearly a much anticipated event and when they started playing people moshed, shook fists and (unique in my experience of TUSK) threw a drink at the band. Blimey! This last led to the frontman making a twat of himself by walking off for a comically short time. Aside from the trumpet player looking a little nervous the rest of the band didn’t even stop playing. They were loud, heavy and fortunately the lyrics were inaudible but I’d had enough after three songs.

Walking through Newcastle at that time on a Saturday night proved pretty spicy. Nowt worrying – the only threatening behaviour I saw was one bloke challenging two coppers who were hassling a homeless guy. Good for him, I thought, as I scuttled past – it’s just that I’ve never seen a crowd so pissed. Everyone seemed distressingly young too. It was like walking through a Little Mix video but with all the participants drunk to the point of being unable to stand.  And screeching.

Back at the hotel I bathed my stinging hands, retired to bed and stared at nothing until well into the early hours, unable to sleep, processing the day.

SUNDAY

Sunday I woke early and raw – head thumping, hands aching – but in a buoyant mood. Needing air, I headed to the railway station shops for supplies, skipping merrily over the broken glass, discarded chips and pools of vomit that were already being swept up and washed away by weary looking council guys in a fleet of Scarab street cleaners.

I’d arranged to meet Ben again, this time with his partner Kadie and two-year old son Wynn, so was soon weaving my way through Quayside Market (clocking all the hipster-bait street food stalls with an eye out for my future lunch) and parking my arse on a railing. It was another glorious, blustery day and as I sat waiting I enjoyed the view and the satisfying whirr and clatter of bikes crossing the river using Millennium Bridge. We adjourned to Sage to indulge in more politics/parenthood chat over expensive flapjack before exchanging farewells. I had to hurry to get to Workplace Gallery in time for CLUB PONDEROSA LIVE at midday.

As I stood at a pedestrian crossing, mentally absent, my reverie was punctured by a fellow Tusker, later introduced as Emma, telling me that she’d enjoyed my set of yesterday. I considered this an inspired opening to a conversation and was instantly impressed by her taste and credibility. Indeed, my step got springier as I realised this event might have attendees that I hadn’t already milked for praise. On our arrival it appeared that things were running late, presumably due to the presence of jazz musicians, so pockets of support hung around outside chatting bollocks and wishing each other ‘good morning’. You must have noticed that the first event of a festival day is always considered the ‘morning’ whenever it occurs.

(Pic by Joincey, @joincey)

Following herd instinct, there came a point when we knew it was time to crowd in and succumb to the all-enveloping embrace of BRB>CULVER. Kev (Wilkinson, crouched) and Lee (Stokoe, hunched) brought forth a roar of such depth and profundity that I don’t hesitate to use the word ‘perfect’.  This kind of thing is a shortcut to nirvana for me – time and desire are obliterated, I want nothing but to be here now experiencing this noise.  It is primal, without scale, yet full of detail – like the sea pulling a beach down the coast one wave at a time, every pulse dragging uncountable pebbles over each other.  That the pair magicked this into being with such (seeming) nonchalance was too much for me.  I lost my shit.

(Aside: coincidental accompaniment for the performance was a projected slideshow of photographs taken by JOINCEY, which were being shown as part of the TUSK/Workplace Gallery CLUB PONDEROSA exhibition.  JOINCEY’s beat is the beshitted pavements of crap town Britain and his deadpan documentation of the depressingly ridiculous, the comically underwhelming and the occasional, surprising moment of beauty or symmetry is brilliant.)

As nothing was going to follow that (with apologies to ARCHIPELAGO, who did) I let me stomach lead me back to the market, scored some sort of authentically Spanish/Geordie chicken wrap and warmed another of Newcastle’s fine railings with my backside.  Forgetting the film programme and enjoying the clement weather I decided to wander the city centre for a couple of hours.  I was looking at Batman outfits in Primark when I realised that it was time to return to the art.

At 5pm two of Saturday’s favourites got together for a collaboration in the Northern Rock Foundation Hall.  Playing again in darkness, and again accompanying / accompanied by live animated painting, STARAYA DEREVNYA and HANS GRUSEL’S KRANKENKABINET (this time without costumes) pooled resources to return us to a dream of staircases in the forest.  I can’t tell you much about it for the same reason I can only guess at what was passing through my mind as I fell asleep last night.  However, beforehand people sat behind me were discussing William Hope Hodgson’s The House on the Borderland and this performance was a glove-like fit for the hypnagogic experience of losing yourself in that surreal masterpiece.  It was great – we stumbled out onto the balcony discombobulated, refreshed.

During KARA-LIS COVERDALE’s skittish and distracting (in a good way) set I found myself getting increasingly skittish and distracted (in a bad way) as I couldn’t find my wallet.  After checking every pocket in my clothing and every flap and cranny of my bag ten times during an extended self-fondle I resigned myself to an unwelcome walk back to the hotel.  It was there, of course, where I’d left it – an indication of how blown my mind was by this point of the weekend.  I arrived back at Sage in time to be ushered out again due to a fire alarm.  I would have really enjoyed a bellowing siren bouncing around that atrium but all we got was:

mahwahbwahmawahbawahanaamahwah

…only quieter and less distinct, which was either some early-NWW sub-vocalising or a safety announcement made through an inadequate PA.

(Pic by Paul Margree, @PaulMargree)

Anyway, fuck all that shit because next for me was KLEIN.  She had a microphone, two metal lecterns – one for a laptop and a mixer on the other – and played with beer can in hand, parka hood (mostly) up.  The set was a rush of disorientating cross chatter, of glistening bubbles and of high velocity, jolting noise.  If KINK GONG had summoned the nature of travel, KLEIN held up a punched mirror to contemporary existence right where we stood.  It was arresting, beautiful, hilariously deadpan, unfathomable.  I grinned, helpless.  During one section – a shining glass pyramid built from shards of techno pop – I felt myself welling up:

THIS IS THE FUTURE!

…I thought.

Afterwards I was buzzing, hyped, gobsmacked, hovering two inches above the floor and all conversations descended immediately into teenage hyperbole:

Me: HOLY SHIT, DID YOU SEE THAT? IT WAS THE BEST THING EVER!

Hapless Tusker: Yeah, it was pretty g…

Me [interrupting]; NO!! YOU HAVE TWO OPTIONS: THINKING IT WAS THE BEST THING EVER OR BEING WRONG!!!

Heh, heh <deep breath>…

OK, whilst putting this piece together, I’ve been torn as to whether to talk about KLEIN being a young, black woman and, if so, what to say.  But I think I have to.  Reading reviews of her recent EP for Hyperdub on sites such as Resident Advisor, her being young and black is not discussed, or even much remarked on, because in a dance music context being young and black is unremarkable.  Unfortunately, in the context of experimental music, especially ‘noise’, it is still unusual.  Looking around at the audience to make sure everyone was appropriately delighted, it occurred to me that KLEIN might be one of only a handful of young, black women in the building, possibly the only one.

Back when dominant trends in noise included leather-coated idiots screaming on about serial killers and race hate the absence of BME voices was entirely understandable – I didn’t really want to be part of it myself – but now, as that side of things has waned, or that anger refigured in more politically and artistically interesting directions, the lack of diversity is more puzzling and shaming.  I think that ‘we’ are a welcoming, open minded crowd with positive, progressive politics but then I would say that wouldn’t I?  I’m white, male, middle-aged, middle-class (more or less) and cis-gendered – and it is probably base assumptions still held by even well-meaning libtard snowflakes like me that are the problem.

For example, one of the most thrilling things about KLEIN’s set had been wondering where the hell it had come from.  I’m not usually fussed about biography but I couldn’t help wondering what influences and experiences led to her expressing herself in this manner.  I began thinking in dad-who-listens-to-1Xtra-when-he’s-washing-up clichés: R’n’B, YouTube, minicabs, pirate radio (showing my age there – is that even still a thing?) because it couldn’t be ‘the canon’ could it?  Then I took a step back and was embarrassed – I don’t know a thing about KLEIN (her hilarious, deflecting blog is no help with ‘facts’ either).  She could spend her evenings discussing plunderphonics and listening to Throbbing Gristle bootlegs, who knows?  Not me.  Sexism and gender bias is in there to.  In the programme notes I described KLEIN’s music as:

…cut-up soul futurism – all silk and pinking shears…

I meant to convey, in a quick and entertaining way, the idea that her smooth source material is chopped into jagged pieces then layered and rearranged by whatever processes she uses to compose.  So why did I use an analogy to dressmaking?  Fucking hell, I’ve got some thinking to do.  Would I have been so stoked had the same set been performed by a middle-aged white guy?  Probably not – I think the music was objectively exhilarating but I’m certain that it was given an edge by the feeling that I was witnessing something new and forward looking.  Mulling it over afterwards, that edge has only been sharpened.  I’m going to use it to cut away some of my mental flab.

By now I was pretty much delirious and sprawled out downstairs with Joe and friends wondering where the energy for the rest of the evening would come from.  Luckily, at that exact moment Joe received a message via the TUSK politburo whispa-ma-phone alerting him to a pizza delivery for the crew.  Using his magic lanyard, he whisked us backstage where we shamelessly stole food from the lovely staff and volunteers who had spent all weekend helping us.  For some reason this moment of naughtiness has stuck with me – a funny little irreverent highlight.  The sustenance was very welcome too.

I surfed the carbs and fat rush to the final set of the festival…

(Above pic by Mike Winship, @MikeWinship, below pic by Kevin Geraghty-Shewan, @deadheaduk)

So, at 11.30pm on a Sunday night in Gateshead I stood at the lip of the stage (no unseemly Brainbombs-style moshpit today) and watched NURSE WITH WOUND. There’s James Worse, dada prophet reciting his own twisted psalms and incantations. I feared the theatricality of his performance might prove hammy but, ach fuck it, his physical gusto – and terrific facial hair – won me over. There’s Andrew Liles, exuding confidence and adding some rock and roll swagger. I don’t know if the stance is ironic – his Bandcamp picture suggests it is – but he is charismatic enough to pull it off in any direction. There’s Colin Potter, co-responsible for Salt Marie Celeste, one of the most-listened-to-albums of my adult life. He looks as jittery as he did when performing a wonderful solo set at a disastrous, poorly attended Termite Club festival years ago (yeah, sorry about that Colin). His frantic concern that everything is working just so, even under huge swathes of clamour, is as charismatic in its way as Andrew Lile’s nonchalance. Finally, there’s Steven Stapleton, the main man, an unassuming presence on the left quietly getting on with his part in the racket whilst a slideshow of his collages is projected above.

I’ve already written about what this act means to me here so I’ll leave that largely to one side. The set itself was a swirling ball of poached noise coloured blood red, concrete grey and the iridescent green of graveyard moss by psych/dada elements. One particularly satisfying all-in tethered crescendo was a highlight. I dug it, it left me satiated. The applause at the end had that multi-faceted meaning it always does when you are in the same room as your heroes, as living legends: relief that they didn’t disappoint (c’mon, you know that is always a worry), congratulations on the actual set and, most importantly, thanks for the decades of work that led to this point.

We also clapped for TUSK – a fitting end to a terrific, beautiful, exhausting weekend. Thank you so much to all that made it happen.

CODA

Despite being a Monday there was a much more cheerful vibe on the train home: better seat, secure luggage and good eavesdropping:

Did you open your presents this morning?

Didn’t get any.

WHAAAT?! NOT EVEN A TUB OF HEROES?!!

Heh, heh.  Once everyone settled down I put Tuluum Shimmering’s Linus and Lucy on my mp3 player, a glorious 75 minute kraut/psych groove on the Peanuts theme tune, and stared backwards at everything that had just happened.  Finally it seemed time to give some serious thought to the question I’d been asked over and over again since Saturday afternoon:

What next?

—ooOoo—

TUSK Festival

nostradamus, quill in hand: rfm on street beers, ali robertson, dopaminos, feghoots, wizards of oi and richard youngs

November 1, 2017 at 9:15 am | Posted in new music, no audience underground | Leave a comment
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Street Beers – Seriously Hot (Chocolate Monk)

Ali Robertson & Guests (Giant Tank)

Dopaminos – Occam’s Hairbrush (Ourodisc)

Feghoots – Dwindling Correspondence (Chocolate Monk)

Wizards of Oi – Wot it is Not (Chocolate Monk)

Richard Youngs – For Shortwave Radio and Voice Text Converter (Chocolate Monk)

 street beers

Street Beers – Seriously Hot (Chocolate Monk) CD-r

Newish jaxx from conceptualist, comic-lover and one half of the mighty Usurper – it’s Ali Robertson’s Street Beers.

A brief two-parter featuring a host of voices (Karen Constance [whose 100-page eye gouge ‘Optic Rabble Arouses’ is currently ripping my retina – search for copies sucka], Tina Krekels, Elkka Nyoukis, Dylan Nyoukis, Collette Robertson and one silent and unnamed Ice Cream seller) this disc meditates on the very British notion of a summer hit by recording a vicious wind blowing into a condenser mic and adding repetitive spoken word riffs via the synthetic marimba parts in Frank Zappa’s Jazz from Hell?  Just like Whigfield did.

A German-speaking / English language  / Scottish dialect text piece takes in mentions of Castle Greyskull and the Eurovision Song Contest in a stream of everyday observations glimpsed from beneath a heavy curly fringe.  Powerful images are run through a clutch of mouths adding the particular emphasis and personal inflection that makes us all individual humans.  It ain’t what you do eh?

In equal parts baffling yet academically vital this cleverly orchestrated confection is interrupted by one of the world’s greatest sounds – a ruler twanging off a desk – that somehow apes the massive and bassy reverberations of Sunn O))) or something.

It’s looped into abstraction.  Captured chatter and accidental singing whirl through the massed ‘bbbbrrrrrrrrr’ in a dense fog.

Who needs dry ice with sounds so gaseous?

ali robeertson and friends

Ali Robertson & Guests (Giant Tank) CD-r in a greetings card-style package and free digital album

Three no-star jamz in exotic locations with erotic personnel.

First up it’s a sixteen minute table-top affair from Ali with heavy-hitting guests Alex Drool and Eran Sachs.  Various gentle clutter-movements, simple tape-gasps and the presence of little mouths make this an almost ASMR-style listen.  The crinkly crackle, busy pace and full-spectrum scrape are filling my tiny ears with tiny sounds but top-up my tiny brain with big, big pictures.  Like staring at the Grand Canyon through a polo mint – the detail exists around the fragrant edges.

The cream in the sponge comes courtesy of our host with Manuel Padding and Collette Robertson.   Without any of the oddball yuks this is a beautiful tape/performance piece of gentle clicks and solitary word play.  The whirr of the tape engines adds a 100 tog warmth to the creaks, recorded footsteps and groans.  Each word (Dutch possibly? I dunno) are spoken with the world-weariness of a sleep-deprived parent.  Kindly but devastatingly hollow.  Exactly the sort of thing slow radio was made for.  CLASSIC!

The final hectic jam is a marvel of chunter and small talk.  Pub bantz, motor racing raspberries and inane local newspaper junk is run through some form of goosey phone app by either Mr A Robertson or Mr Drew Wright (take your pick) to create a 5 min melange attempting to answer – ‘what are men actually for?’

dopeaminos

Dopaminos – Occam’s Hairbrush (Ourodisc) CD and wee booklet and digital album

This mysterious disc was slipped into my hand at TUSK festival by a furtive shadow.

Warned, “It’s a bit of a one off.” I dropped this one into the playing slot as soon as was decent.

These eleven brief tracks of sketchy synth pop are pretty much all formed on some vintage YAMAHA PSS-570 machine found in the back of a leaky cupboard.  This disc takes pre-sets to a new level of ‘fuh’. Digital noise clouds intrude on the bop-a-long rhythm settings, a ‘tiss…tiss…tiss’ snare sound and the ravaged mumble of some laid-back ‘singing.’

But what’s clear is the vision.  A singular approach to wringing all that is good and great out of crappy equipment.  Pushing at the boundaries of what is possible, probable and generally tasteful.

Examples?  ‘Bosch in Crayola’ is a 9 speed-metal pianola on digital time.  ‘Esoteric Voice Research’ could be the ultra-unknown Co Durham bedroom-band Guns R Great, ‘Primordial Soup  Exotica’ the weed-drenched wobble of a teenage Ween.  ‘VWL RMVR’ is undeniably attention-deficit rumba.  But things become perfectly formed on ‘More Confident’ as it gets down and dark with hypnotic self-help tapes battling a twig-dry beat and the sound of men crying.   The ludicrous melody quivers like tangerine jelly melting over hot chips.

File directly between Robert Ridley-Shackleton and Keyboard Money Mark.

feghoots

Feghoots – Dwindling Correspondence (Chocolate Monk) CD-r

New booty from horror film aficionado and noise-music abbot Pete Cann.

For those expecting dramatic fuzz and explosive squeal you need to re-calibrate your lugs as Feghoots trades in small-scale weird.

Opener ‘Alif Showcase’ features the microscopic wrench of rubber gloves.  Elsewhere a peanut is dropped into a decorative Turkish beaker as Pete opens and reseals one of those stiff Amazon cardboard envelopes (Let Down Hair).

A shifting polystyrene crunch forms the base layer of ‘Shy Vein’ making this the noisiest offer but with owls hooting in harmony over the top any fist-pumping gets strictly Autumn Watch… it’s as mesmerising as lumpy frogspawn sculptures.

Analogue breath clicks through dry lungs on ‘Stirrup Residue’ while your roommate cleans the toaster of congealed cheese slices.  The ill-tempered scrape soon melts into antique electronics and domestic field recordings.

The penultimate piece ‘Tenderloiner’ features the lightsaber sparkle of Atsuhiro Ito with the timing of a bird in the hand.  The flickering and flighty splutters mimic a barista’s recurring dreams of hot steamed milk.  At one point I swear a double bass makes an entrance and I realise I’m getting randy for Feghoots and John Edwards to collaborate. We gotta make this happen my well-connected readers!

A finality is reached on ‘Adze Rotor’ which may or may not be the digital processing of foul water sounds captured in both Leeds and Bradford.  The gently swinging coda sweeps away any unpleasantness to focus on the slow rush of oncoming sleep.

Add a notch – Feghoots makes me nod like a Moorhen.

wizards of oi

Wizards of Oi – Wot it is Not (Chocolate Monk) CD-r

There’s something about this disc that makes me think of the much-missed kings of otherness Reynols.

Possibly they share the murkiness and free, looseness of that mind-bending crew but what do I know?  It just sounds wonderfully slack to me.

While it is important to mention W.O.O are only two small bears (who ably manage to handle drums, trumpet, swanee-whistle, dirt-guitar, Wurlitzer and gloomy vocals between their four little paws) the songs are studio-enriched with foul chicken drippings.

Effects are fully ladled on to these jams landing exactly between Teo Macero and King Tubby so even the straightest opening ends up in a double valley of rainbow-reverb.  Just try ‘#Trumpets of Jericho’ or ‘#Metal Gardening’ if you doubt me.

But delicious difference is the order of the day with the too-brief ‘#Cool Pizza and a Beer’ sounding like the birth of Ska replayed by Renaldo and The Loaf in a grain silo.

It’s immediately followed by ‘#Thunderbird Glossalia’; a study for squeezed rodent and the Wurlitzer in the sort of time signature that would make Moondog honk.  When the dust clears super-distorted voices chant insistent curses while the boys sharpen their knives on sopping calf’s liver.

There’s no mercy! When stripped back to basics (guitar and drums) like on ‘#Crayolish Oisters’ it kicks no less brittle.  As if 10 Years After lost their fingers in a blues-related accident – this is the sound of the milkman ruefully cleaning up.

Closer, the intricate ‘#Free Jatz’, couples carefully controlled amp-fritz/saxophone bink with a snare-less drum snatch.  All the better for the boom!

Possibly contains a Volcano da’ Bunk or something placing this firmly on the creaking essential pile.

richard youngs

Richard Youngs – For Shortwave Radio and Voice Text Converter (Chocolate Monk) CD-r

Richard Young’s work has been a kind of shadow that’s floated around my head for about 25 years.  Every time I think – that’s it – that’s the definitive Youngs he comes out with another idea to top the last.  A chocolate fountain of a man he’s spewed out another rich brown mess too tasty to resist.

I guess this is what some beards would call a process piece.  So RY follows his own instructions…

  1. Record a shortwave radio. I used anywhere on the dial that sounded pleasing.
    2. Imitate the sound of the shortwave radio into a voice to text converter.
    3. Cut and paste the resulting text into a text to speech converter.
    4. Press play and record the result alongside original shortwave. Stretch to fit.
    5. Repeat.

A clever approach for sure but snazzy brains don’t always make great music yeah? (see Brian Eno).

This is of course marvellous.  Like the freakiest number stations or creepiest Electronic Voice Phenomena this exists in the limbo between found sound and dream logic.

Disembodied voices speak an almost-language, part-words form some yet-to-be-unencrypted dialect they pinch a brain node but leave any meaning wanting.  Sweeping from ear to ear they sound like they are warning me of something and make me scratch my pate like Nostradamus, quill in hand, hot to translate.

The shortwave pulses flutter as a jammed signal – pitchy whoops and spelks high in my hearing range.

Imagine a ghost captured on camera but then you find out the ghost that’s been deliberately summoned.

How does that make you feel?  How does that make you really feel?

Chocolate Monk

Giant Tank / Duff & Robertson

Ourodisc

-ooOOoo-

tightly packed egg: rfm tagteam on tradescantia zebrina, swiss barns & queef, various sofia artists, ian watson & rob hayler, lust rollers, of habit

October 26, 2017 at 11:44 am | Posted in midwich, new music, no audience underground | Leave a comment
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Tradescantia Zebrina –Tradescantia Zebrina (Hairdryer Excommunication)

Swiss Barns & Queef! – Live at the Monk and the Nun (Sofia Records)

Various Artists – 12 14 16 18 20 22 = 2 (Sofia Records)

Ian Watson & Rob Hayler –Metronome (Invisible City Records)

Lust Rollers – Grim Reflections from the Poetic Spleen (Structured Disasters)

Of Habit – Extended Technique (Entr’acte)

 tradescantina 2

Tradescantia Zebrina –Tradescantia Zebrina (Hairdryer Excommunication) CD and digital album

Mysterious rumbles from the powerfully-coiffured Kev Sanders and comrades Morgan Potts and Siobhán Britton.

Released as a fund-raiser for Trans Health, Housing Action and Not Your Fault this is a master-class in enigmatic sound.

Like a Graham Lambkin joint this reflects the perfect drifting between rooms you sometimes find yourself craving – a hot sonic ear scanning like radar for ripe sound-fruit.  So what if all the apples are withered and brown – no use for a ploughman’s but perfect for chutney!

On this release Sanders’ distinctively polite drone spoons some distant storm clouds and Morgan’s cello that appears to be playing in two rooms at once. The interjection of random slowcrash (think a falling piano slowed down by a factor of 500 perhaps) keeps things both spicy and sweet.

‘Upon Afterwoods’ is particularly poignant and makes me think of Alison Bechdel’s ‘Fun Home’ the waves of dark repression and longing collapsing into a domestic sinkhole.

But most mysterious is the final track ‘Clippings’ that seems to be a total bumdial. A piece of accidental accident to add a healthy dash of sauce to the proceedings.

Quick like fever.

swiss barns

Swiss Barns & Queef! – Live at the Monk and the Nun (Sofia Records) Cassette full of genuine moss and individual art print and digital album

New improvising duo Swiss Barns sport not one but two slack-string-virtuosos; Jorge Boehringer (AKA Core of the Coleman) and Ailbhe Nic Oireachtaigh (Woven Skull, Three-Eyed Makara, Cian Nugent & The Cosmos) both on viola.

This 20 min side-long jam takes in a whole cornucopia of approaches: hillbilly scrape, pointillist puckering and velvet-thunder drone.  It moves with the flexibility of language, a language of vibration.  But of course – aren’t they all?

Often the off-chug of the voices clash in mid-air making a third vibration that stands proud like a cormorant on the cliffs – wings outstretched replenishing its natural oils.

At other times the slick ‘plunks’ or scrapes rustle like whole peppercorns wrapped up in newspaper; a solitary tune coils like a wormcast on a beach and, as you get your eye in you see there’s another, and another and another.

But each time one of our heroes bows it’s to let out the spirit of some half-mad Pan.  Goat-legged and hell bent on debauchery the strings swoop and flutter, they roil and stab ending on a Bernard Herrmann-esque riff that makes the watching crowd stand up, hands on hips and say ‘Oi!’

Queef! play a melodie derived from a Chinese greetings card to open a set of carefully considered tape-grot and strummed/struck/fondled summatorother.  Like Prick Decay (but older and wiser) got it back together for one last show this Dada Junk Spew flirts with litter, rubbish and trash in all senses of the words. Discarded remnants of sound, found non-instruments and a heavy ticking combine in ways both formless and totally natural.

The ghost of improv haunts some sections, the mid-point reveals the shuffling chains and dropped keys of a Usurper side but soon mutates into electro-frat clowncore – complete with honking horn and what I presume are enormous shoes.

As things move towards resolution my personal favourite – the rubbery wrench of tight balloons – is combined with a spluttering dentist’s drill and the acid squeal of hot air passing through a stretched neck.

A brief countdown ends the piece and those patrons of the Monk and Nun stand up again to crow the legend ‘Oi – Oi!’

12 14 16

Various Artists – 12 14 16 18 20 22 = 2 (Sofia Records) Cassette and digital album

A conceptual piece of tape collage/field recording masterminded with the spider-like fingers of Natalia Beylis drawing a bunch of freaky flies into her web.

The trick is (Duke Ellington knew it and Natalia Beylis knows it too) is to surround yourself with quality horns and all you have to do is play the moods.  Here the moods are played with a firm hand and clarity of vision and the horns include heads like Elkka Nyoukis, David Colohan, Andie Brown, Sharron Kraus & Ingrid Plum.

Like all good concepts this one is simple at its root.  Each contributor is asked to record two minutes of ‘something’ from their day’s activities and these moments are stitched together into two, twenty-two minute sides.

So while you’d maybe think this would result in a choppy, highly edited mix you’d be mistaken.  The domestic kitchen noise rustles into traffic ‘schuss’, birds tweet among the cutlery and bus queue politics/tannoy announcements punctuate the random clatter and swish of someone getting ready for work.

Each situation blends into the next and themes (travel, the weather, domestic chores etc) are shared between the pieces, time-zones and countries to create a disjointed yet very human narrative.

As you lose yourself in this music rhythm and texture become all important; for me this turned into an epiphany halfway through side two where some busy fidgeting and dog toy squeak is rammed up against someone lighting the gas on a cooker.  Reader…I jumped up and clapped my hands.

As a listening piece this is both cleansing sorbet and hot sticky fudge-treat.

hayler watson

Ian Watson & Rob Hayler –Metronome (Invisible City Records) Cassette and free digital album

As avid RFM readers will know Rob Hayler killed off his longstanding Midwich persona rather publically at October’s TUSK festival in Gateshead.  A final Groovebox throb and hum led to an electronic disembowelling soon to be all over that youtube.  Ever the careful archivist Rob made sure his outpourings would not be stemmed.  Henceforth they gush via his solid and trustworthy everyday name –Rob Hayler.

And in this act of back-to-basics Rob doubles his impact by teaming up with the polymath Ian Watson (artist, drone-lord, electronic heavy) to launch their iron-clad ‘Metronome’.

So forget all you know about the gentle “tuk – tuk – tuk” of those cute polished wood mechanicals.  This 44 minute piece groans like mutant springs; it howls and it blisters.  It wobbles and crashes.

The scant sleeve notes suggest the source material comes from Ian and is mixed by Rob.  I always find this an interesting approach as it asks fundamental questions of the participants – how much do I present?  How much do I leave in and leave out?  Like a slow-motion improvisation the agonising decision making process is dragged from seconds into weeks!  But on ‘Metronome’ such questions are answered in a clear, unhesitating voice – this is a confident piece of duo-ism that sounds to my tin ears the greasy smearing of one decisive mind.

The mood is certainly darkly metallic, and constantly unfurling as if multiple appendages are slowly freeing themselves from a tightly packed egg.  The motion is continuous – mesmerising.  You stare unblinking, afraid to move, not daring to wonder what evil is being unwrapped.

Number one on Megatron’s playlist?

 lust rollers

Lust Rollers – Grim Reflections from the Poetic Spleen (Structured Disasters) CD-R and digital album

The Aylesbury based duo of Mark Browne and Daniel Gregory come at ya on their second release with a sound that can and has been labelled non-music and idiot-jazz.

Silence flows through these improvisations like dark chocolate in a Vienetta. Objects are donked, flecked and pilched in unorthodox manners (not sure if there is an orthodox manner to ‘play’ a cardboard box anyways) and ‘real instruments like sax and gong are included.

The pleasure can be found in the laser-like operation your ears are required to perform in order to focus on a dense sound world of motion and decay. The scampering and rustling as the disc starts had me reaching for the volume in the car only to damn near soil myself when an unexpected gong strike erupts from the speakers like Norman Bates from behind the shower curtain.

The spirit of mischief is clearly on the agenda although my journey through grim reflections was more serene meditation then beardy euro-jazz freak out. Whilst listening, uninterrupted at home, I was genuinely shocked to find that forty minutes had elapsed. The loving approach to small sounds has a serenity and purity of intent that moves gracefully like the wind through tree branches and seems to slow down time.

I found its autumnal hues immensely soothing to my gonked-out cerebrum.  (by PUKE VOLLAR)

of habit

Of Habit – Extended Technique (Entr’acte) Cassette

Gary Myles is one half of sound-confusion dingbats Spoils and Relics.

Here he offers his first official solo outing and what a curious and alluring beast it is. I found myself flipping it like a pancake in my nifty new walkman whilst taking my dog Lola out on a grey October morning.

Gary’s droll Yorkshire commentary runs through both sides like ominous smog. His droll and detached voice carries a ‘scary guy at the back of the bus’ edge that is lulling and a bit sinister. Amid the sedated thud of drum machine and soggy mechanics whirr Gary’s stoic mumbles that allude to scenes of bleak surrealism and urban squalor.

Fans of Spoils and Relics may be surprised by the more err…musical heft of this delicious little tape. There is an arc and a persistence that trudges wearily on across the whole first side, the sad thump of a cheap Casios and dying batteries. The peripheral chirping and rustling underneath the beatz sound like a rusty hospital trolley on a journey down  a corridor that has no end. It also gives a hint at what suicide may have sounded like had they grown up in a Yorkshire mining town with Ken Loach as their svengali visionary.

Side B starts with hollow loops of melody smeared with several layers of tape grime, descending into blackness. As the narration returns, grey oxide drizzle flickers malevolently in the background finding space between breath, teeth and throat. An unlikely samba limps to life briefly before puttering out like a fag end in a puddle.

Magnificent

(by  LUKE VORTEX who advises us this tape, sold out at source is AVAILABLE FROM THE BOOMKAT VAMPIRES)

Tradescantia Zebrina Bandcamp / Hairdryer Excommunication

Sophia Records

Invisible City Records

Structured Disasters Records

Entr’acte

-ooOOoo-

 

dense as blood: rfm on maalem mahmoud gania, baccam/chayer and broken shoulder, ij, grey guides and steven ball

October 18, 2017 at 7:29 pm | Posted in new music, no audience underground | Leave a comment
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Maalem Mahmoud Gania – Colours of the Night (Hive Mind)

Baccam/Chayer and Broken Shoulder – Les Angoisses Nocturnes/Hiruma no Tachikurami (Kirigirisu Recordings)

IJ – In the Vicinity of the Extraordinary (Kirigirisu Recordings)

Grey Guides – We Are Not Your New Techno Messiah (No Label)

Steven Ball – Subsongs (Linear Obsessional Recordings)

 colours of the night

Maalem Mahmoud Gania – Colours of the Night (Hive Mind) double vinyl LP

Here’s a thing.  While the N-AU may be set in staunch opposition to some elements of popular musical culture some slices of the pie enjoy a quiet and respectful gravity.

So while the baldheads and grey beards carefully stack their noise tapes they also gently tend record collections that bulge with what was rather antiseptically packaged as World Music back in the 1980s.

But of course things have moved on since Real World or Sterns’ opened the ears of the £50 man.  Smaller, more intimate labels; Excavated Shellac, Awesome Tapes from Africa, Sublime Frequencies and Power Moves recent Excavation series have been setting heads nodding for a decade.

But be sure to add Hive Mind to your ‘must check’ list.  This new label has released a handsome album of mystical Gnawa and is a real labour of love. Brighton resident Marc Teare spent years researching and travelling in Morocco ultimately working with Mahmoud Gania’s family making sure their maiden release was done just right.   Down to the cleverly understated artwork Hive Mind has the feel of a family affair; putting pure love and deep knowledge into the weighty album you hold in your hands.

The eight generous tracks (all are between seven and ten minutes long) feature Mahmoud Gania’s   rubbery Gimbri exploring a tone that’s warmly plucked and deliciously toasted.  Small motifs are played through like scientific equations with a crisp balance between the deeply funky repetition and free-flowing fingering.   There’s a chaotic tumbling to this playing.  The earthy notes churn like a plough cutting deep into the field and turning over fertile soil. Each run reveals a perfectly formed micro-world shot through with woody detail in rich orange and brown.

An insistent, gritty percussion is skittering underneath. Like a wave of sweltering motion this tinny crackle shimmers and shudders like sunlight on a lake or the glaze on a raku pot – each tiny thread spitting into another hundred veins of rhythm.

The call-and-response vocalising lifts an already head-spinning trip into the rusty red sky on a plume of resinous smoke.  Sung in a lip-smacking mixture of Peul, Bambara, Hausa and Arabic there’s a dangerous slurring on ‘Foulani’ where Mahmoud Gania’s  authoritative declarations are repeated back by a slack throated choir, lovingly slurping over each line.

The Gimbri playing on the ten minute ‘Bala Matimba’ is as dense as blood, descending from a mightily complex riff into a smear of bass tones that bounce like magnetic bubbles constantly repelling and attracting.

Keeping things authentic ‘Sidi Sma Ya Boulandi’ features an additional drone keyboard part and marks the semi-permeable membrane that divides ancient and modern which is of course a typical western construct.

But it’s the sheer velocity of these tunes that keep me coming back again and again.  Like the joy of watching a wagon almost leap the tracks.  To my un-tutored ears this all sounds dangerously, wonderfully brittle and could rattle apart at any second – but of course it doesn’t.

The matter is in a master’s hands so the illusion of imminent collapse is a thrilling, intoxicating thing.  Me?  I’m hanging on by the skin of my teeth and loving every single second.

Apparently available copies are almost down to single figures so be sure to check this out now at Hive Mind!

 broken shoulder

Baccam/Chayer and Broken Shoulder – Les Angoisses Nocturnes/Hiruma no Tachikurami (Kirigirisu Recordings) CD and digital album

This split between Montreal’s Baccam/Chayer and Japan-based Broken Shoulder is uncommonly weighty and carefully binary.

Our Canadians syringe sweltering electronic pops and gristly-noise-rattle through my ears.  It’s like some sort of sieve has been taken to a fever dream and all that falls out are ragged scraps: fuzzy disconnected images and a neck-clawing panic.

The machine-made frightened squeals add that ghost-in-the-machine quality that I love in this kind of racket; the closing minutes of track one crack like parched lips with salty, scarlet blood staining the teeth.

Track two is a lo-slo mung-out.  Chirping figs clatter unholy toothy-pegs on one level while tracked beneath an over-stretched boil of rubber strings are bubbling merrily in a trail-battered billy can.   Huge coughs of noise splutter like the last thick green hockle of Iron Man before he starts Sweet Leafing.

Is that some sort of calliope buckling under atmospheric pressure?  Who takes a steam-organ into a bathysphere?  Baccam/Chayer have gone totally Jacques Cousteau on this one – silvery bubbles ripple though the deep as a steel piano is found on the soft sea bed.

For the wonderfully-named Broken Shoulder it’s all about technique.   He starts by spilling glue on an old keyboard and then dousing it in cold tea.  The resulting death spasms are recorded on an unreliable mini-disc swiped with funky electrons.  You go to such lengths and something remarkable is bound to happen like on this ‘Hot Wind’

‘Keep on Believing’ takes the jam to the aviary matching each colourful cheep and trill with a pulsating ur-groove.  Two notes of hope, two notes of wonder, two notes that yaw across a scaffold of just goddamn loveliness.  I can’t listen to this without a smile skimming across my ugly mug and good, wholesome thoughts drive out the bad ju-ju in my noggin.  Musical chicken soup!

More sweet and gentle air wafts through ‘Make Sure all the Doors and Windows are Open’ another wonderful tone-painting as soft as duck down in blues and pinks.   The sister-track ‘Piss Boat’ does an Eno/Fripp and seems to reverse the original sucking us back in time.  Marvellous yeah!

 IJ

IJ – In the Vicinity of the Extraordinary (Kirigirisu Recordings) CD and digital album

Inge van den Kroonenberg & Jürgen De Blonde are a loved-up couple of mountain goats and therefore have a soft pad within their polished hooves.  This malleable surface provides extra grip on the sharp rocks and 5cm ledges on which they thrive.  On ‘Calling the Heard’ IJ develops their own evolutionary extension (a reversible air-sac, a throat pocket?) to plunge deeply into a world of hollow-horn drone. Impressive eh?

But extra mind-balloons are thoroughly inflated on the peerless ‘Expanding Rainbow’ a study of super-sparse mbira clicks and organ-loops.  Like a growing anxiousness each flutter of reverb sets off a small chain reaction of impish huffs that glisten like vapour trails – always too far to reach out and touch.

The ghost of reverb haunts ‘Frozen Highway’ as frisky as a tumbleweed skitter.  More breathy organ notes are stretched over the event horizon but for me the real jazz is played out in the snatches of faint conversation/street noise that blisters like paint under a blowtorch, lifting medallions of oily pigment in a beautiful rash.

grey guides 2 

Grey Guides – We Are Not Your New Techno Messiah (No Label) CD-R and digital album

Morley (near Leeds) greatest hobos bum a fag from ex-members of This Heat.

Like.  Not literally of course.  But these pieces of swollen tape-noise and crushed sonics could be a backing-tape from Cold Storage or something.

The stressed-out guitars in ‘Lame Duck Alchemist’ throb and thrum like useless string ghosts.  The cascade of puckered notes are sour to taste and wobble gingerly like a tipsy aunt.  A hussing/hishing (that’s the pucker again – this time a pair of red lips) swooshes over lazy chants and crow impressions.  This really is a blunted reality.  Anything you want to tell us lads?

But then ‘Kev’s Temple’ is a firm Dr Phibes palm on the keys with muffled grunts fighting to get heard over the filth.  The cinematic theme continues on ‘Venus-in-Furness’* that makes like a montage scene trying to convey the sense of morbid fascination one has with re-visiting locations of previous heartbreak.  The nervous system is close to collapse but continues to make bad decisions.  A two-note hum struggles to make an entrance around the wire wool messiness.

As ever there is a finger on the FFW button all through this glorious construction so playing speeds are arbitrary (See ‘New Experimental Wheelchair’).  Smears are the new clarity and act as ear-cataracts.  Only the most messed-up and bleached sound can cut through the soft tissues.

But this is by no means a grim affair. No sir!  A doubled-up whine shimmers becoming a fly trapped in a test tube.  Its furious buzzing is muted by the firm rubber bung on ‘Last Feast of Harlequin’ which could also ape Ligeti’s ‘texture music’.  Take that Gramophone!

Yet again the Grey Guides have dug deeper than most to unearth layer upon layer of groovy silt/loam/compost.  It may stink to high heaven but nourishes countless pretenders on its rich, vital nitrates.

*contender for NAU pun of the year

subsongs

Steven Ball – Subsongs (Linear Obsessional Recordings) CD and digital album

This Mr S Ball is a long-time man.  Spending decades in Storm Bugs this is the first solo album that I’m aware of and certainly his first full album for the wonderful Linear Obsessional group.

Classy from the uncluttered front cover art to the spare arrangements for instruments and voice – this is a disc as bracing as an arctic northerly blast.

This collection of real songs is unfussy and focused.  Steven’s voice never raises much above a conversational hum, a sing/speak that’s both comforting and hypnotic.  The very normality of his vocal approach makes this an arresting enough listen – but couple this with the barely-there arrangements and you are on to a winner.

Like the Wu-Tang on their 36 Chambers best Steven practices the secret art of sticking to one distinct, lopsided sample/loop and letting it breathe.  There’s no smothering hiss on this finely recorded disc and spare bass, guitar or piano (but rarely playing at the same time) create a soft scaffold.   ‘Inside’ showcases this approach wonderfully with a handful of descending bass tones capturing a whole suitcase full of moods.

An emphasis on structure and organically developing themes makes the 15 min ‘Of the Yard (after Terry Ball)’ an exercise in deeper listening and repetition.  Sort of like a kitchen sink version of ‘There was an old lady that swallowed a fly’ cribbed from unpublished poetry notebooks (which the notes suggest it was).

Less esoteric matters are discussed on ‘Garage/Band’.  What could be a withering snark at underground poseurs ‘pretending to be bored’ Steven delivers with a kindly wink, and avuncular sigh – we’ve all been there eh?

The missing link between reductionist improv and the intimate breathy song cycles of a Robert Wyatt.

Hive Mind Records

Kirigirisu Recordings

Grey Guides Bandcamp

Linear Obsessional

-ooOOoo-

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